AUSTIN – The first of September in Texas sounds a lot like the fourth of July with the steady “pop, pop, pop” of shotgun reports as upwards of a quarter million dove hunters take to the fields across the state for the tradition-rich opening day of the season.
“The opening of dove season is a big part of our state’s hunting heritage,” said Dave Morrison, big game program director with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. “It gives families and friends an opportunity to enjoy a day in the out of doors and share in our great state’s bountiful natural resources.”
Texas is home to several subspecies of dove, some are protected, but legal to hunt, such as the mourning, white-winged and white-tipped varieties. Others, like the rock dove and Eurasian collared, are unprotected and can be hunted. And, some, like the Inca dove, band-tailed pigeon and common ground dove, are protected and cannot be hunted. More information about these different dove, including images, can be found online at https://tpwd.texas.gov/education/hunter-education/know-your-doves.
Roughly 10 percent of the nation’s 350 million mourning dove, many of which migrate on the winds of fall cool fronts from states to the north — along with about 9 million white-winged dove — make their way across Texas during the winter. Because they are a migrant bird species, dove populations and hunting are managed jointly between federal government agencies in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.
This season, Texas hunters will see the longest dove season in 80 years; and luckily, will see an increased dove populations, too. A new 90-day season this fall means hunters will have 20 more days of opportunity compared with previous years. TPWD is integrating those additional days early in the season to take advantage of birds migrating into the state, as well as at the end of the season in the Special White-winged Dove Area to offer more wing-shooting opportunities.
Dove hunting is a big deal in Texas, not just in the number of participants, but for the contributions to local economies in rural areas of the state. According to figures compiled by Southwick and Associates, a market research, statistics and economics firm, direct expenditures and taxes from dove hunting contributes over $400 million to the Texas economy.
What can dove hunters expect to find in the fields this season? 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 the state, 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,” said Shaun Oldenburger, TPWD dove program leader. “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.”
Check out TPWD’s dove season forecast video news release on YouTube at https://youtu.be/2yq_KGIJcrU .
Dove season in the North Zone runs Sept. 1 – Nov. 13 and Dec. 17 – Jan. 1, 2017; in the Central Zone from Sept. 1 – Nov. 6 and Dec. 17 – Jan. 8, 2017; and in the South Zone from Sept. 23 – Nov. 13 and Dec. 17 – Jan. 23, 2017. The daily bag limit for doves statewide is 15 and the possession limit 45.
In the Special White-winged Dove Area, the season runs Sept. 3-4, 10-11, Sept. 23 – Nov. 9, Dec. 17 – Jan. 23, 2017. During the early two weekends in the Special White-winged Dove Area, hunting is allowed only in the afternoon and the daily bag limit is 15 birds, to include not more than two mourning doves and two white-tipped doves. During the general season opens, the aggregate bag limit is 15 with no more than two white-tipped doves.
For novice dove hunters or those new to the sport, TPWD is offering Hunting 101 workshops this year dedicated to dove hunting. These 3-8 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. Class schedules are available online or by contacting the TPWD Hunter Education Department at 512-389-4999.
Hunters are reminded to purchase licenses for the 2016-17 hunting seasons before taking to the field. Hunting licenses can be purchased through the agency’s 28 field offices, at more than 50 state parks and over 1,700 retailers across the state. Licenses may also be purchased online through the TPWD website or by phone at 1-800-895-4248. Call center hours are Monday through Friday, 8 p.m. to 5 p.m. and there is a required $5 administrative fee for each phone or online transaction. The online transaction system is available 24/7.
Hunting and fishing regulations for the new season can be found in the 2016-2017 Outdoor Annual, available in print form at license retailers, online and in the free Outdoor Annual mobile app available for Apple and Android devices.
In addition to a hunting license, anyone born after Sept. 1, 1971, must successfully complete a hunter education training course. Those under 17 and those 17 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. Accompanied means being within normal voice control. The TPWD Hunter Education certification is valid for life and is honored in all other states and provinces. More information on hunter education certification is 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.
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