The upper coast of Texas is blessed with coastal marsh that offers great public hunting for migratory waterfowl. The J.D. Murphree Wildlife Management Area (WMA) contains over 24,000 acres of fresh, intermediate, and brackish water marsh within the prairie-marsh zone along the upper Texas coast near the Louisiana border. The J.D. Murphree WMA is managed by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) and is divided into two units that are divided by the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway (GIWW).
The Big Hill Unit is located north of the GIWW and the Salt Bayou Unit is located south of the GIWW. All J.D. Murphree WMA waterfowl hunting, teal hunting and all alligator hunting will be administered out of the WMA headquarters located on the south side of Highway 73, which is located about 1/2 mile east of the Taylor Bayou Bridge and 3 miles west of the Highway 87 intersection in Port Arthur. All hunters must report to the appropriate check station for orientation, assignment to a hunting compartment, and validation of their hunting permit.
The check station for Salt Bayou Unit waterfowl hunts opens at 4:00 a.m. and the check station for Big Hill Unit waterfowl hunts opens at 4:30 a.m. on each designated day and permits will be issued until 30 minutes before legal shooting hours. Waterfowl hunters for the Salt Bayou Unit must be checked out and off the Murphree WMA by 12:00 p.m. when the check station closes.
The Big Hill Unit is approximately 8,900 acres of fresh to intermediate marsh. Access to the Unit is by boat only. A shallow draft aluminum boat equipped with an outboard motor (20-40 horsepower) is ideal for duck hunting and alligator hunting. A 14 to 16 foot aluminum boat is perfect so that is is light enough to be pulled over small levees; this will allow you to access more of the area. In addition, an additional canoe or small boat may aid in accessing assigned hunting areas within leveed compartments, especially if you expect to use a larger boat. Large, moderate draft, or heavy boats will limit access in many hunt areas due to shallow water conditions and levee portages.
The Salt Bayou Unit is approximately 15,300 acres of brackish to salt marsh. Access to the Unit is by boat only. A shallow draft boat approximately 14+ feet in length equipped with a moderate-sized outboard motor (25-75 horsepower) is recommended for alligator or goose and duck hunting. An additional canoe or small boat may aid in accessing assigned duck hunting areas within hunt compartments. Boat launch accommodations are limited to shallow draft boats only. Rough and choppy water conditions frequently exist on Keith Lake during windy days.
The construction of permanent waterfowl hunting blinds is prohibited on the Murphree WMA. In addition, it is a hunter’s responsibility to maintain a distance of 200 yards from other hunting parties. Airboats are prohibited on the WMA except in Big Hill, Taylor’s, Hildebrandt Bayou, Blind Bayou, and Keith Lake. In the Salt Bayou Unit only, airboats may only be used for access by permitted waterfowl hunters and must have a motor of less than 10 horsepower. Retrievers are welcomed and make sure you bring your goose and duck hunting decoys. Use caution during warm weather because alligators are present on both units.
TPWD has stated that the following equipment is necessary for hunters on the J.D. Murphree WMA: a boat and outboard motor as described above, proper safety devices as required by law, paddle, flashlight, push-pole, outboard gas sufficient for 25 miles of travel, rain gear, boots or waders, insect repellent, appropriate ammunition and a shotgun. Keep in mind that boats (persons, equipment, harvested game, etc.) may not exceed U.S. Coast Guard approved loaded capacity.
Any hunters utilizing inadequate boats or equipment may be limited to sharing available hunt areas. Food, lodging, and hunting supplies are not available on the WMA, but commercial lodging facilities are available in the Port Arthur and Beaumont area. Alligator and duck hunters are strongly encouraged to thoroughly test all of their equipment before arriving at the J.D. Murphree WMA Headquarters. Call the headquarters at 409-736-2551 for more public hunting information.
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