Electronic decoys usher in new era of dove hunting

Posted Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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The battery-operated advertisement rabbits that most of us have seen march across our television screens couldn’t hold a candle to the hundreds of fake doves that spun their wings over sunflowers, maize and water holes scattered across Texas during this year’s major dove hunting seasons.

Many hunters also have used the motion dove decoys to attract teal and other ducks during the waterfowl hunting seasons, favoring the smaller decoys over larger motion waterfowl decoys, a testament of their ability to attract a variety of game birds.

Indeed, like many changes in hunting gear, the “new era” of dove hunting in Texas has evolved into electronics involving fake doves with wings that spin on poles positioned in front of the hunters.

“It is amazing how well these motion dove decoys bring the mourning and whitewing doves right down out of the sky to you,” said Ron Stanfield, a dove hunter in Knox County.

“I have seen doves flying across a field almost 150 yards away that turn and fly directly to the dove decoys. Some of them will hover right over the decoys and other doves will light on the ground right next to the decoys.”

Indeed, motion dove decoys, especially those with spinning wings, are making believers of hunters who once may have questioned whether the fakesters would help put more birds in their game bags.

“I set out at least two motion dove decoys next to each other for the best results,” Steve Barber of Granbury said. “Some hunters use more. There is no doubt that they work to bring in doves. The doves have been all over the tops of our decoys that our hunters set out in this field this morning.”

Most motion dove decoys operate on a pair or more of AA batteries that cause their paddle-like wings to spin on a pair of dove wing replicas that is mounted on a metal pole 3 or more feet off the ground. They sell for around $35 to $45 for each decoy. Some are cheaper when bought in pairs or larger numbers.

Most hunters say they would not hunt without one or more motion dove decoys.

“They work and that’s enough for me,” Coker said.

This year’s dove season opened in the North Zone on Sept. 1 and ran through Wednesday. The South Zone season opened Sept. 20 and ended Sunday. Each of these zones will reopen with late winter seasons in December through early to late January.

There are approximately 250,000 dove hunters in Texas who harvest 5 million to 6 million doves during the 70-day seasons. The daily bag limit is 15 but a change in possession limits that went into effect this year allows hunters to have 45 doves in their possession rather than 30 as in previous years.

Hunters this year may have experienced the best hunting in some areas than they have seen in several years.

Although the severe drought conditions that hit much of the state in 2011 limited if all but wiped out the growth of native and crop food sources for the doves, improved rain conditions prior and amid this season plus the opportunity of many farmers to provide seed-producing crops in several traditional dove hunting areas helped provide good hunting for this year’s hunters.

Additionally, the expansion of the white-winged doves across the state also has helped boost the numbers of doves many North Texas hunters used to rely solely upon mourning doves for good shooting opportunities.

“For the past two decades, white-winged dove populations have steadily expanded both their numbers and their geographical extent,” said David Morrison, small game program director for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. “We believe, and the [U.S. Service and Wildlife] service agrees an expansion is appropriate to take advantage of additional hunting opportunities.”

That approach to wildlife management is exactly what hunters have seen in recent years where white-winged and mourning dove regulations have been merged to include both in the aggregate of 15 birds rather than limiting up to white-winged doves in the overall aggregate of doves of both species that can be taken.

Wildlife officials acknowledge that the expansion of white-winged doves plus timely rainfalls often lead to improved dove populations, but there seems to be little argument that the electronic doves with their spinning wings are not helping put more doves in the bags of Texas hunters.

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