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TPWD Optimistic about Dove Season Prospects
AUSTIN— Texas hunters can anticipate good numbers of dove as ample rainfall across most of the state has set the stage for the upcoming Sept. 1 season opener, according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
Timely rainfall usually equates to above average dove production, and by all field accounts from TPWD wildlife biologists, this year is shaping up to produce a boom crop of birds.
“Above-average rainfall across most of the state has created ideal habitat conditions for doves,” said Corey Mason, TPWD dove program leader. “I expect above-average production this year and hunt success should be high provided doves are not dispersed.”
Mason explained that the abundant seed production, predominately sunflower and croton will help recently fledged birds to rapidly put on weight. But, quality range conditions could also cause doves to disperse as native food sources become readily available and make managed fields less attractive early in the season.
“What it means for us is we’re going to have food available throughout the summer and early fall, body conditions will be better and all in all it’s just a good thing,” Mason pointed out. “There may be more surface water available which could distribute birds more in afternoon hunts. Those who focus more on limited water sources in the past may not see as much shooting as during dry years.”
Mason said although birds may not be as concentrated this year, the traditional hotspots should remain active. “Those birds go to the traditional hotspots for a reason, so I wouldn’t discount them,” he said.
Texas dove season in the North and Central Dove Zones will run from Wednesday, Sept. 1 through Sunday, Oct. 24 and reopen Saturday, Dec. 25 through Sunday, Jan. 9, with a 15-bird daily bag and not more than two white-tipped doves.
The South Zone dove season will run Friday, Sept. 17 through Sunday, Oct. 31, reopening Saturday, Dec. 25 through Tuesday, Jan. 18 with a 15-bird daily bag and not more than two white-tipped doves.
The possession limit is twice the daily bag.
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. 4-5 and 11-12 and reopen when the regular South Zone season begins on Friday, Sept. 17 through Sunday, Oct. 31 and again from Saturday, Dec. 25 through Friday, Jan. 14. 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, with not more than two white-tipped dove.
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, annually 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; more than 70 percent are located near major urban areas.
“Since the public dove lease program began in 1994, one of our top priorities has been to offer urban Texans affordable access to hunting within close proximity to home,” said Linda Campbell, TPWD public hunting program director. “By setting up dove fields for youth and adult only, we hope families will take advantage of the opportunity to get outdoors and take part in our state’s dove hunting tradition.”
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 2010-2011 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 or www.reportband.gov. TPWD bands about 20,000 dove a year across the state.
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