State biologists forecast bumper dove, teal season

The outlook for September’s early migratory bird hunting in Texas looks promising, according to wildlife biologists with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Dove and teal are expected to flourish as above- normal rainfall through the summer has yielded excellent range conditions throughout much of the state. ‘Above-average precipitation statewide has created ideal habitat conditions for doves,’ said Jay Roberson, TPWD dove program leader. ‘I expect above-average production this year and hunt success should be higher provided doves are not dispersed.’ Roberson 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 food sources become readily available and make managed fields less attractive early in the season. Dove season in the North Zone is set for Sept. 1-Oct. 30, with a 15-bird bag and not more than two white-tipped doves; the Central Zone runs Sept. 1-Oct. 30 and reopens Dec. 26-Jan. 4, with a 12-bird bag and not more than two white-tipped doves; and the South Zone is set for Sept. 21-Nov. 11, reopening Dec. 26-Jan. 12 with a 12 bird bag and not more than two white-tipped doves. Possession limit is twice the daily bag. The Special South Texas Whitewing Zone, which now encompasses land west of I-35 and south of U. S. Highway 90, is open to white-winged dove afternoon-only (noon to sunset) hunting the first two Saturdays and Sundays in September. The daily bag limit is 12 birds, not more than four (4) mourning doves and two (2) white-tipped doves. The early teal season runs Sept. 15-23 in the High Plains Mallard Management Unit and Sept. 15-30 in all other Texas counties. The daily bag limit for teal is four. ‘There is lots of rain and water on the coast and we’re looking at the third highest population of bluewings on record heading this way, so it could be unbelievable,’ said Dave Morrison, TPWD’s waterfowl program leader. ‘Greenwings are also at near record highs. But, with all the water we have, it could spread the birds out. Everybody is going to get some of the gravy.’ Both greenwing and bluewing teal numbers this year are about 50 percent above the long-term population averages, said Morrison. ‘The September teal season has the potential to be one of the best in the last several years,’ he added. Because hunting conditions are so good, TPWD anticipates a large turnout for the dove season opener in the North and Central Zones and is urging hunters to purchase their hunting license early to avoid last-minute delays. Licenses go on sale Aug. 15 and can be purchased at all TPWD law enforcement offices and from more than 1,200 retail outlets statewide. Hunters are also reminded a state migratory game bird stamp is required for doves, waterfowl and sandhill cranes and in addition, a Federal Duck Stamp is needed to hunt teal. Dove and teal hunters should take note they may only use ‘plugged’ shotguns capable of holding no more than three shotshells and if you are hunting teal be sure to carry only approved nontoxic shotshells into the field as lead shot is prohibited. If you don’t have a place to hunt, TPWD offers opportunities for both dove and teal on managed public lands and leased private land. For $48, the price of an Annual Public Hunting Permit from TPWD, hunters can access more than a million acres of public hunting lands, including 155 units covering more than 56,000 acres leased primarily for hunting dove and other small game. TPWD’s public hunting program leased the land using money generated by permit sales. While public hunting lands can be found throughout the state, most of the dove and small game leases occur along the I-35 and I-10 corridors within easy driving distance of the major metropolitan areas. Some areas offer special hunting opportunity for youth.

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