AUSTIN, Texas — Despite extended drought conditions across much of Texas, wildlife biologists with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department suggest there has been enough moisture to set the stage for good hunting this dove season.
"Dry conditions don’t necessarily equate to bad dove hunting," said Corey Mason, TPWD dove program leader. "I’ve been around the state the last month and have seen good production of native sunflower and numbers of doves along high lines and around water. I’m expecting a good dove season."
Reports from field biologists echo Mason’s outlook. "Dove hunting should be awesome; especially if hunting over a water source," said LaGrange-based district biologist David Forrester. "Normally water is overabundant in my district, but this year it will be at a premium. Additionally, if you can find a stand of sunflower, goat weed, etc., hunting should be good. Food sources and particularly native food sources are going to be an attractant because the agricultural crops and harvest just aren’t going to be as good."
In regions where rainfall has been plentiful, such as the Panhandle, dove hunting prospects are favorable but could bring unwanted additions as Amarillo district biologist Calvin Richardson warned. "Probably, the only downside that I could imagine is that we probably are going to have a heck of a mosquito crop during dove season."
Beginning this year, Texas will be going to a 70-day dove season and 15-bird daily bag statewide. Possession limit is still twice the daily bag.
The season in the North and Central Dove Zones runs Tuesday, Sept. 1 through Sunday, Oct. 25 and reopens Saturday, Dec. 26 through Saturday, Jan. 9. The South Zone dove season runs Friday, Sept. 18-Tuesday, Nov. 3, reopening Saturday, Dec. 26-Sunday, Jan. 17.
The additional 10 days in the North Zone should provide more late season hunting opportunity for diehard sportsmen, according to Mason. "Most folks hunt early, usually the first couple of weekends, but there are usually birds to be found throughout the season around water holes and food sources so the extra days could mean good hunting during enjoyable weather."
The Special South Texas White-winged Dove Area will open to white-winged dove afternoon-only (noon to sunset) hunting the first two full weekends in September running Sept. 5-6 and 12-13 and reopens when the regular South Zone season begins on Friday, Sept. 18 through Tuesday, Nov. 3 and again from Saturday, Dec. 26 through Wednesday, Jan. 13. The Special White-winged Dove Area season takes four of the allowable 70 days, so when the regular season opens, this area most close four days earlier than the rest of the South Zone. The daily bag limit is 15 birds, not more than four mourning doves during the first two weekend splits and 2 white-tipped doves. Once the general season opens, the aggregate bag limit will be 15.
Texas boasts fall dove populations in excess of 40 million birds and its 300,000 dove hunters harvest about 6 million birds annually or roughly 30 percent of all doves taken in the United States. Dove hunting also has a major economic impact, contributing more than $300 million to the state economy.
Dove hunting provides an entry into the sport of hunting because it is relatively economical and accessible. Through its Public Hunting Program, TPWD offers affordable access to quality hunting experiences with the purchase of a $48 Annual Public Hunting Permit.
This year, TPWD has leased nearly 50,000 acres of public dove hunting fields in 46 counties; many of which are located near major urban areas. The 140 hunting units are distributed from South Texas to the Panhandle and from Beaumont to West Texas.
"Approximately seventy-two percent of the dove units and 71 percent of the acreage are located in the four major metro areas of Austin/Waco, Houston/Beaumont, San Antonio/Corpus Christi and Dallas/Fort Worth," said Vickie Fite, TPWD public hunting program coordinator."
This year, TPWD has combined its Annual Public Hunting Map Booklet and its Dove Hunting Supplement into one publication. The new map booklet is organized into eight urban area based regions that will allow hunters to readily identify places to hunt in their area. Beginning Aug. 15 public hunting maps will be available for download and viewing from the department’s Web site.
Hunters are reminded that in addition to a valid Texas hunting license, certification in the Harvest Information Program (HIP) is required. HIP certification is offered when you buy your license and involves responding to a few simple questions about your migratory game bird harvest during the previous season. Hunting licenses expire annually on Aug. 31 and licenses for the 2009-2010 year go on sale Aug. 15.
TPWD is also conducting ongoing dove banding research and asks hunters to please report leg bands recovered on harvested birds by calling 1-800-327-BAND. TPWD bands about 20,000 dove a year across the state.