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Conditions Right for Dove Season
AUSTIN, Texas — While there may not be as many hunters in the field for the start of dove season in the North and Central Zones because of a Sept. 1 midweek opener, there should be no shortage of birds, according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
Dove season opens in the South Zone on Sept. 24.
As opposed to last year’s Labor Day opener, the Wednesday start to dove season is expected to bring about 10 percent fewer hunters to the field, according to Jay Roberson, dove program leader with TPWD. “For those who want to get out early, there should be a little less competition,” he said. “But that also will mean less movement of the birds. All in all the quality of hunts should be good for those who have good locations and have put in time scouting.”
Dove hunting prospects for this fall are above average once again, Roberson projected. Moisture conditions have been good for feed production throughout most of the state. “I think we’ll see good dove production this year despite the heavy rains in some areas,” he said. “We’re seeing a lot of young birds collected during our banding efforts. Hunting success should be good, provided feed conditions remain good.”
Those good range conditions could also disperse birds across larger areas during the first part of the season, Roberson noted. “Hunter success rates may drop off some because when the birds get disturbed, they scatter. They don’t have to look far for food and water. If they aren’t pressured, they don’t move. Then it becomes a matter of getting to the birds and staying on them.”
The major change to this year’s dove regulations involves a shift of the Central Zone boundary to include areas within San Antonio’s South Loop (FM 1604), which will give hunters earlier access to a huge population of white-winged doves.
“In those portions outside the city limits where discharge of firearms is allowed, hunters can capitalize on those feeding flights of whitewings,” he said. TPWD conservatively estimates San Antonio’s whitewing population to be in excess of 1.25 million birds. “Make sure you are outside the city limits because the City of San Antonio does have a firearms discharge ban. Our game wardens and local law enforcement will be working that area to make sure the laws are enforced. We want people to have a safe and enjoyable hunt and that’s not going to happen if they’re hunting within the city limits.”
Hunters are also reminded to be on the lookout for banded birds. As part of a research effort to monitor movements of mourning doves, some birds have been marked with metal leg bands containing a unique number and a toll free telephone number (800-327-BAND or 2263) that hunters can call to report the band. Bands may also be reported on the Internet (http://www.pwrc.usgs.gov/bbl). Hunters may keep the bands. It only takes a minute and doesn’t cost a cent and hunters receive a certificate of appreciation that identifies when and where the dove was banded.
Hunters are cautioned that a hunting license and HIP certification is required to hunt all migratory game birds. HIP stands for “Harvest Information Program,” a federally mandated program aimed at improving the harvest surveys for migratory bird. The license vendor should ask you several questions related to your last year’s harvest of doves, ducks and geese. This is NOT the survey, but helps qualify for the survey should your name be drawn for the 2004-05 harvest survey. Good harvest data is one of three essential management tools needed to assure future hunting regulations are well founded. Dove hunters are required to be HIP. Also, remember that Hunter Education Certification is required, depending on your age; but a deferral is available for new hunters accompanied by a certified hunter. Check the Outdoor Annual of hunting and fishing regulations booklet for details.
A white-winged dove stamp is also required to hunt white-winged doves in Texas and since whitewings have expanded their range throughout much of state, it’s a good idea to invest in a stamp. The stamps may be purchased anywhere hunting licenses are sold and cost $7 if purchased separately along with the basic hunting license, however all stamps are included in the Super-Combo Hunting license.
Finally, TPWD hunter education officials remind hunters to be sure to only shoot at doves within range less than 40-yards and in a “safe zone of fire.” Communicate frequently with those around you, and be sure to alert anyone who moves too close to your position or who may not know you are near, and caution anyone shooting at low birds about this type of unsafe practice. Remember that shotguns must be plugged, never transport a loaded firearm in a vehicle, and wait to load when you are at your hunting location and unload before leaving the field.
With schools usually ending the day about 3 p.m., dove hunting offers great opportunity to wait until the afternoon so you can take a youngster hunting with you. Afternoon feeding and watering is usually in full swing after 5 p.m., so many Texans live close enough to good bird hunting to wait and take a young hunter with them. Terry Erwin, hunter education coordinator at TPWD, said, “We encourage hunters to be role models for conservation, act ethically and to take a youngster or someone new to hunting along with them.”
2004–2005 DOVE SEASONS
- North Zone: Sept. 1–Oct. 30 with a 15-bird daily bag limit.
- Central Zone: Sept. 1–Oct. 31 and Dec. 26–Jan. 3 with a 12-bird daily bag limit.
- South Zone: Sept. 24–Nov. 10 and Dec. 26–Jan. 16 with a 12-bird daily bag limit. In the Special White-winged Dove Area in the south zone, the season would run Sept. 4, 5, 11, 12 then Sept. 24–Nov. 10 and Dec. 26–Jan. 12. During the special whitewing season, the bag limit would be 10 in the aggregate, and no more than 5 mourning dove or 2 white-tipped dove.
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