Dove season success up in the air; daily bag limits changed

Changes in dove season regulations developed primarily through public input will put hunters to the test this year. Texas Parks and Wildlife officials say the new rules, which offer the best use of available dove hunting days and bag limits ever in Texas, should provide hunters with the greatest opportunity for success. “We gave hunters what they wanted,” said Vernon Bevill, TPW game bird program director. “Within the options available to us, we based this year’s dove season framework largely on public comment.” Under framework approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Texas has the option of conducting a 60-day mourning dove season with a 15-bird daily bag limit or adopting a 70-day season and a 12-bird daily bag. Because neither combination affects the resource, TPW wildlife staff looked to the hunters to help choose the format. Basing their decision largely on extensive public comment and results from a random survey of several thousand dove hunters, the commission chose to retain a 60-day season and 15-bird daily bag limit for dove hunting in the North Zone and returned 10 additional days of hunting in exchange for a reduction of three birds in the bag for the remainder of the state. To avoid a potential citation, hunters in the Central and South zones need to remember that the bag limit has been reduced there from 15 to 12, as detailed below. The daily bag for all zones should be composed of only mourning doves, white-winged doves or white-tipped doves, with no more than two white-tipped doves on any day. Daily shooting hours for all zones are one half hour before sunrise to sunset. The 15-bird North Zone limit in effect maximizes hunting opportunity of a migratory resource as it passes through the state. This year’s season in the North Zone will run Sept. 1 through Oct. 30 with a daily bag limit of 15 birds. In the Central Zone which includes McCulloch County, dove season will run Sept. 1 through Oct. 28 and Dec. 26 through Jan. 6 with a daily bag limit of 12 birds. The South Zone season will run Sept. 21 through Nov. 4 and Dec. 22 through Jan. 15 with a daily bag limit of 12 birds this year. The white-winged dove season is Sept. 1, 2, 8 and 9 in the Special White-winged Dove Area of South Texas. Bag and possession limits are 10 white-winged, mourning and white-tipped doves in the aggregate, including no more than five mourning doves and two white-tipped doves per day. Shooting hours are noon to sunset. Regulation changes alone won’t put birds in the bag. Success afield is determined primarily by wing shooting skills and weather. While prowess with a scattergun is in the hands of the hunter, the rest of the equation might not be difficult to solve if dry conditions across most of the state continue into the hunting season. “We still should have pretty abundant early fall foods for dove so they should be kind of spread out, which makes for average hunting in a lot more areas instead of really good in just a few spots,” said Brownwood-based wildlife biologist Stephen Jester. “Tank shooting could be productive in areas where surface water is scarce.” Recent rains in the area may present problems for local hunters as standing water might lure birds away from watering holes. Texas boasts a fall dove population of more than 40 million birds, more than half of which are produced annually. In addition, several million more migrant doves from bordering states to the north make their way across Texas each fall. Last season, nearly 400,000 Texas dove hunters spent a combined 1.2 million days afield and took 4.5 million birds. White-winged dove hunters are reminded that a $7 white-winged dove stamp is required to hunt whitewings anywhere in Texas and that whitewing populations are expanding throughout much of the Central and South Zones. Hunters are also reminded to renew their hunting licenses, which expire Aug. 31 (today), before heading out on opening day.

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