Dry conditions don't necessarily equate to bad dove hunting, wildlife biologists with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department suggest. An extended drought across much of Texas could be beneficial for dove hunters as birds will have to rely upon limited resources.
Water, especially in close proximity to dove feeding areas, should be at a premium heading into the Sept. 1 dove season opener.
"Dove hunting over a water source should be excellent," said Corey Mason, TPWD dove program leader. "Additionally, dove may be concentrated on food sources, so if you can find a stand of sunflower, goat weed, etc., hunting should be productive. Native food sources are going to be more important this year because agricultural crops aren't as good as years past."
Biologists say the drought will have some impacts on dove populations, with the greatest being on juveniles. However, they do not expect significant impacts to what hunters will see this fall. 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.
Texas dove season in the North and Central Dove Zones will run from Thursday, Sept. 1 through Sunday, Oct. 23 and reopen Friday, Dec. 23 through Sunday, Jan. 8, with a 15-bird daily bag and not more than two white-tipped doves.
The South Zone dove season will run Friday, Sept. 23 through Sunday, Oct. 30, reopening Friday, Dec. 23 through Monday, Jan. 23 with a 15-bird daily bag and not more than two white-tipped doves.
The Special White-winged Dove Area will open to white-winged dove afternoon-only (noon to sunset) hunting the first two full weekends in September running from Sept. 3-4 and 10-11 and reopen when the regular South Zone season begins on Friday, Sept. 23 through Sunday, Oct. 30 and again from Friday , Dec. 23 through Thursday, Jan. 19. The Special White-winged Dove Area season takes four of the allowable 70 days, so when the regular season opens, this area must close four days earlier than the rest of the South Zone. During the early two weekends, the daily bag limit is 15 birds, to include not more than four mourning doves and 2 white-tipped doves. Once the general season opens, the aggregate bag limit will be 15.
Dove hunting also has a major economic impact, contributing more than $300 million to the state economy, according to published reports.
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 (APH) Permit.
Permit holders have access to more than 100 hunting units leased from private landowners specifically for dove and small game. A new online map feature allows for "virtual scouting" of these areas. By clicking on the locator points, you can follow links to detailed aerial maps with highlighted boundaries and links to information pages from the APH information map booklet. A downloadable Google Earth file (.kml) is also available that contains all the boundary information along with links to the corresponding APH map booklet pages.
Hunters are reminded that in addition to a valid Texas hunting license, a state Migratory Game Bird Stamp, and 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.