Despite Unrelenting Summer Heat, Dove Season Expected to Have Soaring Numbers

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AUSTIN — A cool and rainy spring means that despite above-average summer temperatures, Texas hunters could encounter significantly increased dove populations as the 2023 season opens Sept. 1.

Spring surveys conducted by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) staff found an estimated 28.3 million mourning doves in Texas, a 44 percent increase from 2022.  White-wing dove populations have increased 20 percent, tying the record high with an estimated 11.7 million this year.

“This spring was about as perfect as it could be, with steady rains and cool weather,” said Owen Fitzsimmons, TPWD Dove Program Leader. “Given the population increases this year and the excellent breeding season conditions that persisted through the first half of the summer, hunters should expect to see a lot more birds on the landscape this September.”

As daily temperatures top 100 degrees with no relief in sight, hunters will likely find larger concentrations of birds at watering holes, and doves may be feeding earlier and later than normal to avoid the mid-day heat.  In areas where agriculture has suffered from the heatwave, look for stands of common sunflower, croton and other native annual forbs and grasses.

Texas is home to seven species of native doves and pigeons, including the three legal game species- mourning, white-winged and white-tipped doves. Texas accounts for 30 percent of the total mourning doves and 85 percent of the total white-winged doves harvested in the U.S. each year, far more than any other state.

TPWD officials remind hunters to prepare for the extreme heat and make sure they are packing all the essentials for a day in the field.  They should bring plenty of water to stay hydrated and take measures to stay cool in a shaded area. The same is true for canine hunting partners.

“If this extreme heat persists, think twice about bringing your dog out in the early season,” Fitzsimmons said. “Temperatures this high can be dangerous for dogs, particularly when they’re excited and running hard after birds. If you do bring them, try to limit the hunts to early mornings or late evenings.”

The regular dove seasons:

  • North Zone: Sept. 1-Nov. 12, resuming Dec. 15-Dec. 31, 2023 
  • Central Zone: Sept. 1-Oct. 29, resuming Dec. 15, 2023-Jan. 14, 2024
  • South Zone: Sept. 14-Oct. 29, resuming Dec. 15, 2023 -Jan. 21, 2024

 For the third straight year, there will be six Special White-Winged Dove Days, Sept. 1-3 and 8-10.

The aggregated bag limit in South Zone’s regular season is 15 with no more than two white-tipped doves.  During the Special White-winged Dove Days in the South Zone, hunting is allowed only from noon to sunset and the daily bag limit is 15 birds, to include not more than two mourning doves and two white-tipped doves.

All updated hunting regulations for this year’s hunting season can be found in the Texas Outdoor Annual mobile app or online at OutdoorAnnual.com.

In addition to a hunting license, anyone born after Sept. 1, 1971, must successfully complete a hunter education training course to hunt legally in Texas.  The TPWD Hunter Education certification is valid for life and is honored in all other states and provinces. Hunters can find more information or print a replacement at no cost online.

A Migratory Game Bird Endorsement (Stamp) 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.