Expanded dove hunting season to start Sept. 1
Texas’ longest dove hunting season in 80 years will open in just over a week on Thursday, Sept. 1.
Extended by 20 days, the new 90-day season this fall means hunters will have more opportunities than in previous years to bag a daily limit of 15 birds.
Dove season in the Central Zone, which includes Gillespie County, will be from Sept. 1-Nov. 6 and Dec. 17-Jan. 8, 2017.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) is integrating the additional days early in the season to take advantage of mourning dove migrating into the state, as well as at the end of the season in the Special White-winged Dove Area to offer more bird hunting opportunities.
“Hunters will now be able to take advantage of those northern birds riding early November cool fronts into Texas, without sacrificing days of opportunity early in the season,” said Dave Morrison, director of the TPWD Small Game Program.
“We’ve also tacked on extra days to the back end of the season in late January when South Texas prospects are still pretty solid. It’s a win-win for dove hunters,” Morrison said.
Roughly 10 percent of the nation’s 350 million mourning dove reside in Texas, along with about nine million white-winged dove.
Each fall, over 415,000 Texas dove hunters take to the field in pursuit of these acrobatic, fast-flying game birds. Based on field observations by TPWD wildlife biologists, prospects for the 2016-2017 hunting season are good to excellent.
“During the start of breeding season (March) in Texas, habitat conditions for dove were good to fantastic, thanks to the carryover of precipitation from 2015,” said Shaun Oldenburger, TPWD Dove Program leader. “Biologists witnessed good early production on both white-winged and mourning doves throughout the state until the May rains arrived. However, good production was witnessed in June and July as more sporadic, isolated storm events continued across the state.”
Based on early survey results at TPWD, mourning dove numbers may be some of the highest in more than a decade in the Panhandle with similar numbers as 2015 in the rest of the state. White-winged doves continue to increase in numbers across Texas, but the growth is gradually slowing.
“Hunters should be prepared for good seed production across the state, so there will be plenty food available for mourning doves except in areas where flooding occurred,” Oldenburger said. “This may make hunting a little more difficult due to thick vegetation cover, and hunters will need to spend a little more time finding downed birds in areas due to this issue during opening day in some areas.”
Dove season in the North Zone runs Sept. 1-Nov. 13 and Dec. 17-Jan. 1, 2017, while in the South Zone it will be Sept. 23-Nov. 13 and Dec. 17-Jan. 23, 2017.
The bag limit is 15 per day, but the possession limit is 45.
For novice dove hunters or those new to the sport, TPWD is offering Hunting 101 workshops this year dedicated to dove hunting.
These three- to eight-hour, hands-on seminars and workshops are designed for family members of all ages to learn more about the animals hunted, tools used in hunting and the shooting sports and where to go in Texas to enjoy these activities.
A Dove Hunting 101 class is planned Sept. 17, from 9 a.m.-4 p.m., at the San Antonio/Seguin Bexas Community Shooting Range, on Interstate 10 about 10 miles east of San Antonio.
Class schedules are available online or by contacting the TPWD Hunter Education Department at 512-389-4999.
Hunters are reminded that all current hunting licenses expire on Aug. 31 and, in addition to a 2016-2017 hunting license, anyone born after Sept. 1, 1971, must successfully complete a hunter education training course. Those under 17 years of age and those 17 years of age and older who purchase a one-time deferral license may hunt legally in Texas if accompanied by a licensed hunter 17 years or older who has passed hunter education or who is otherwise exempt.
TPWD considers “accompanied” with to mean the hunters are within normal voice control. The TPWD Hunter Education certification is valid for life and is honored in all other states and provinces. More information about these courts are available online.
A Migratory Game Bird endorsement and Harvest Information Program (HIP) certification are also required to hunt dove. HIP certification involves a brief survey of previous year’s migratory bird hunting success and is conducted at the time licenses are purchased.
Hunting and fishing regulations for the new season can be found in the 2016-2017 Outdoor Annual available in print form at retail stores, in digital form online and in a mobile app form for Apple and Android devices.