The beginning of September marks an important date on the calendars of migratory bird hunters around the state.Dove season. With the season beginning on Monday in the North and Central zones, Shaun Oldenburger, dove program leader for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, said that this year hunters should be prepared for a highly productive first split. “There has been good production in most areas of the state and we expect high numbers of birds in the fall split, so opening day should be good throughout the state,” Oldenburger said. The first split in the North and Central zones will begin Monday (Sept. 1) and run through Oct. 20. The second split for both zones will last from Dec. 19 to Jan. 7. Dove season in the South Zone will begin Sept. 19 and remain open until Oct. 20. The second split will begin Dec. 19 and last until Jan. 25. TPW is projecting greater numbers of both mourning and white-wing doves in all zones. According to reports by TPW, mourning dove estimates for the 2014 season should reach 26.6 million birds, while white-wing numbers have been estimated at 6.6 million. “Population estimates of mourning doves for the year have seen a 5 percent increase from the previous year,” Oldenburger said. “We have actually seen gains since the 2010 season, when [Texas] was in that very ugly drought.” Oldenburger said that some regions remain hindered by the drought, however. “The pre-drought numbers have not really bounced back in the Rolling Plains and North Texas; however, South Texas and the Gulf Coast look much better than they have in years past.” Despite reports of an expected higher yield of birds, bag limits will remain the same from the previous season. Daily bag limits for all regions will remain at 15 birds per day, numbers that Oldenburger said have held consistent over the past decade. “We have changed some things in the special white-wing dove area in South Texas, but regulations have been fairly consistent for the last decade or so,” Oldenburger said. In the special white-wing region, bag limits will be 15 birds, and the season will run concurrent with the South Zone. The second split should also offer productive hunting, and Oldenburger said the quality hunting at the end of last year should be a great incentive for hunters to save their shooting for later.“Although close to 95 percent of the harvest of mourning doves and white-wings are completed by that first split, the second season can be very good and will have a lot less hunting pressure,” Oldenburger said. The quality of hunting available in both splits depends mainly on the proliferation and quality of food available. Something that is determined long before the beginning of fall. Bob Thornton of the Texas Dove Hunters Association said that the window for appropriate weather and crops should be vastly improved from the 2013 season. “The problem last year was by the third week in September, most of the seeds had already budded and fallen to the ground,” Thornton said. “So once the bad weather came, there was really nothing to hold the birds.” Thornton said that he has seen an increase in rancher participation and an increased focus on planting fields. That will undoubtedly improve the quality of hunts available, making the 2014 season more enticing to hunters. “Guides and outfitters are really enhancing their programs to offer more than just a day hunt,They’re providing lodging and meals, etc.,” Thornton said. “Day leases and farmers are planting more for the dove hunter, such as sunflower and milo fields; they’re focused on planting and crop maintenance to draw more hunters.”
Essential dove-hunting gear you will need when taking to the field to hunt for mourning and white-wing doves in Texas. Remember to spend a few hours going over your gear before you hunt.
• The appropriate hunting license for the desired zone.
• A properly cleaned shot gun. Spending some practice time at the range is also encouraged. Time at the range will allow shooters to cycle several rounds through the gun to be prepared when a legitimate shot emerges.
• Ammunition: Shoot similar shot loads while practicing at the range.
• Proper clothing: Not only for the possibility of drastic weather changes, but, also to protect against snakes and other potential hazards.
• Plenty of water.
• A game bag.
• Sunscreen/ bug repellent.
• Allergy medication: Many good hunts have been ruined by sneezing and a runny nose, so, be prepared for anything a field full of blooming sunflowers and crops can throw your way.
Note: Daily bag limit is 15 for all zones; possession limit is 45 for all zones.
North Zone: Sept. 1 - Oct. 20, 2014. and Dec. 19, 2014 - Jan. 7, 2015. That portion of the state north of a line beginning at the International Bridge south of Fort Hancock; thence north along FM 1088 to State Highway 20; thence west along State Highway 20 to State Highway 148; thence north along State Highway 148 to Interstate Highway 10 at Fort Hancock; thence east along Interstate Highway 10 to Interstate Highway 20; thence northeast along Interstate Highway 20 to Interstate Highway 30 at Fort Worth; thence northeast along Interstate Highway 30 to the Texas-Arkansas state line.
Central Zone: Sept. 1 - Oct. 20, 2014, and Dec. 19, 2014 - Jan. 7, 2015. That portion of the state between the North Zone and the South Zone.
South Zone: Sept. 19 - Oct. 20, 2014, and Dec. 19, 2014 - Jan. 25, 2015. That portion of the state south of a line beginning at the International Toll Bridge in Del Rio; thence northeast along U.S. Highway 277 Spur to U.S. Highway 90 in Del Rio; thence east along U.S. Highway 90 to State Loop 1604; thence following Loop 1604 south and east, then north, to Interstate Highway 10; thence east along Interstate Highway 10 to the Texas-Louisiana Line.
Special white-winged dove area: Sept. 19 - Oct. 20, 2014, and Dec. 19, 2014 - Jan. 25, 2015. That portion of the state south and west of a line beginning at the International Toll Bridge in Del Rio; thence northeast along U.S. Highway 277 Spur to U.S. Highway 90 in Del Rio; thence east along U.S. Highway 90 to State Loop 1604; thence along Loop 1604 south and east to Interstate Highway 37; thence south along Interstate Highway 37 to U.S. Highway 181 in Corpus Christi; thence north and east along U.S. 181 to the Corpus Christi Ship Channel, thence eastwards along the south shore of the Corpus Christi Ship Channel to the Gulf of Mexico.