Texas dove season prospects looking up

Of course rain is in the forecast this weekend. It wouldn’t be a Texas dove opener without the birds spreading out and changing patterns just before the opener.

Rain is forecast across parts of the state this weekend, but that won’t dampen the spirits of the thousands of Texas dove hunters that head afield Monday.

The traditional September 1 dove season opening day in the North and Central Zones falls on Labor Day Monday.

Dove hunting this season should be good, according to wildlife biologists with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, as both mourning and white-winged dove populations are seeing an increase over last year.

In any given year, Texans shoot between 4-5 million mourning doves and Shaun Oldenburger, TPWD Dove Program Leader, doesn’t expect that to change during the 2014-15 season.

“Based on rural and urban dove surveys by TPWD, the 2014 estimated breeding mourning dove population is about 26.55 million birds, which is a 5 percent increase over 2013 and nearly 8 percent above the long-term average (2004-2014),” said Oldenburger. “More than 90 percent of all mourning doves occupy rural habitats.”

The 2014 combined white-winged dove breeding population is estimated at 6.61 million birds, which is also a 5 percent increase over 2013 and more than 12 percent above the long-term average (2008 – 2014). However, 80 percent of white-winged doves live in urban areas.

Texas harvests more mourning and white-winged doves than any other state in the country. From 2003 – 2013, Texas hunters bagged 1 out of every 4 mourning doves taken nationwide and more than 80 percent of all white-winged doves.

With that level of activity, Texas dove hunting also carries a hefty contribution to the state’s economy, with an economic output of roughly $316 million.

Texas dove season is divided into three hunting zones to take advantage of migration trends across the state, and the season is split over two segments to maximize hunting opportunity. The first segment closes statewide this year on Monday, Oct. 20. The season will reopen Friday, Dec. 19 and run through Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2015 in the North and Central Zones.

The South Zone opens Friday, Sept. 19 and runs through Monday, Oct. 20. The second segment will run Friday, Dec. 19 through Sunday, Jan. 25, 2015.

The Special White-winged Dove Area is restricted to afternoon only (noon to sunset) hunting the first two weekends of September. Hunting in this area will reopen concurrent with the South Zone on Friday, Sept. 19 and continue through Monday, Oct. 20, and then reopen Friday, Dec. 19 through Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2015. During the early two weekends, the daily bag limit is 15 birds, to include not more than two mourning doves and two white-tipped doves. Once the general season opens, the aggregate bag limit will be 15 with no more than two white-tipped doves.

The daily bag limit for doves statewide is 15 and the possession limit is 45.

All hunters are reminded that licenses expire each year on Aug. 31, so a new license for 2014-15 is needed prior to going dove hunting. Licenses may be purchased at most local sporting goods retailers, TPWD Law Enforcement offices, online through the TPWD website at www.tpwd.state.tx.us/buy or by phone at 1-800-895-4248. Call center hours are Monday through Friday, 8 p.m. to 5 p.m. and there is a required $5 convenience fee for each phone or online transaction. The online transaction system is available 24/7. For online and phone orders, a physical license will be mailed within three business days. During that time period, a transaction receipt will be provided via email that will be sufficient proof of hunting license that can be used for dove hunting, though it will not be allowed for the take of fish or wildlife that require a tag.