If you hear shots fired near your home this weekend, chances are there’s no reason to be alarmed.
It’s just the start of another dove season across Texas — and this year promises to be a good one.
“It’s busy,” said game warden Cane Schumaker. “It’s running and gunning.”
Schumaker spent much of opening day in a field near Haslet, not far from Alliance Airport. In this little pocket of unincorporated Tarrant County, where homes are visible in every direction, about 400 dove hunters were getting the season under way.
Never miss a local story.
Within the first few hours of the season, Schumaker had a handful of citations to hunters for: firing a shotgun over the roadway; not completing a hunter education course and not having a migratory bird stamp; and mistakenly shooting at a night hawk.
Under the Texas Penal Code, the citations are Class C misdemeanors for which a judge can levy a fine up to $500.
The field in Haslet isn’t the only place where hunters are congregating near sprawling subdivisions. The steady growth in North Texas means that hunting hot spots that were once in rural areas are now closer to homes. If hunting leases are in unincorporated areas they are fine; but if folks are firing their shotguns at doves inside city limits, that’s against the law.
“The Metroplex is growing so fast that it’s hard to keep up with all of the new homes,” Schumaker said.
With this year’s rain, Texas Parks and Wildlife is predicting a good year for dove hunting, both in September and later, when birds begin migrating south. So much in fact, that for the first time in 80 years, the season has been extended by 20 days.
415,000dove hunters annually in Texas.
“Hunters will now be able to take advantage of those northern birds riding early November cool fronts into Texas, without sacrificing days of opportunity early in the season,” Dave Morrison, TPWD Small Game Program director, said in a news release. “We’ve also tacked on extra days to the back end of the season in late January when South Texas prospects are still pretty solid. It’s a win-win for dove hunters.”
About 35 million mourning dove — 10 percent of the nation’s dove population — live in Texas, officials said.
‘Bird shot peppering your roof’
One of the challenges for Schumaker and other game wardens is educating both homeowners and new hunters about what is legal.
“There’s little pockets of sunflower fields and milo fields across northern Tarrant County and north of Dallas near Frisco where people go dove hunting,” Schumaker said. “We’ll get calls where people say shots are being fired near my house but unfortunately, there’s no law about being too close to a home.”
On Thursday, Schumaker had only one call from a homeowner complaining about hearing gunshots in the distance but he expects to hear far more on Saturday, which will likely be the busiest day of the dove hunting season.
Fort Worth police occasionally gets some calls, mostly for homes near unincorporated areas, said Sgt. Marc Povero, but it is not an issue within the city limits.
For local sheriff’s departments, calls about weapons being discharged aren’t limited to dove hunting season. Both Tarrant County and Parker County dispatchers get calls almost every day.
If you buy a house in an unincorporated area, your taxes are going to be significantly lower but one of the things you might hear is some bird shot peppering your roof, especially after Sept. 1.
Terry Grisham, Tarrant County Sheriff’s Department spokesman
“There’s really nothing we can do about firing a weapon in unincorporated Tarrant County unless it’s being used in a careless or threatening manner,” said Terry Grisham, a Tarrant County Sheriff’s Department spokesman. “If you buy a house in an unincorporated area, your taxes are going to be significantly lower, but one of the things you might hear is some bird shot peppering your roof, especially after Sept. 1.”
‘You’ve got to watch out’
In Parker County, officials got the authority from the Legislature to require homeowners in platted subdivisions to have at least 10 acres before a weapon can be fired.
But Parker County Sheriff Larry Fowler said reports of shots being fired are still commonplace.
“We get almost daily reporting of hearing gunshots,” Fowler said. “Occasionally, we get reports of someone being peppered by gunshots.”
There have been no injuries but there have been some close calls.
We’ll get calls where people say shots are being fired near my house, but unfortunately, there’s no law about being too close to a home.
Cane Schumaker, game warden
About three years ago — not during dove season — Fowler said shooters were taking aim at targets with high-powered weapons when a stray bullet sailed into a home, narrowly missing two people inside the house.
“A round got out and went through this lady’s house,” Fowler said. “I think the son was on the sofa watching TV when the round went over his head, through a wall and into another room.”
As more people move into unincorporated areas, Fowler said the risk will only get higher.
“I’m a gun owner and and all for gun rights, but you’ve got to do it safely and not everybody does it safely,” Fowler said. “You’ve got to watch out. Some of that bird shot might sprinkle down on you.”
All about dove season
North zone: North of Interstate 20/30 in North Texas
Sept. 1 to Nov. 13, Dec. 17 to Jan. 1
Central zone: South of I-20/30 in North Texas
Sept. 1 to Nov. 6, Dec. 17 to Jan. 8
By the numbers
more days this dove season than in the past.
million mourning dove and nine million white-winged dove live in Texas.
dove hunters in Texas annually.
dove is the bag limit per day, which can include two white-winged dove.
Based on field observations by TPWD wildlife biologists, prospects for the 2016-17 hunting season are good to excellent.
Get your license
A hunting license, which expires yearly on Aug. 31, is required and anyone born after Sept. 1, 1971, must complete a hunter education course before purchasing a license.
Those under 17 may hunt legally in Texas if accompanied by a licensed hunter 17 years or older.
A Migratory Game Bird endorsement and Harvest Information Program (HIP) certification are also required to hunt dove.
It is against the law to fire across a property line or over a roadway. Last year, a handful of citations were issued for violating those laws in North Texas.
Under the Texas Penal Code, anyone convicted of a Class C misdemeanor can be fined up to $500.
Regardless of where you’re hunting, establish a safe shooting lane in the field you are hunting and always be aware of the location of other shooters. Shooting outside of a safe zone is the No. 1 cause of hunting accidents in Texas, mostly during dove hunting.
Source: Texas Parks and Wildlife Department