AUSTIN – While most Texans are sweltering under a brutal August heat wave, savvy dove hunters will gladly suffer along providing conditions don’t change before the Sept. 1 season opener.
A hot, dry landscape heading into the season can concentrate dove around feeding and watering areas, making for excellent hunting, according to wildlife biologists with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. In addition to prime conditions heading into the opener, dove populations have thrived this year thanks to the amount and timing of spring rains across most of the state that kicked habitat into high gear for dove breeding season.
“With the abundant highly-preferred dove foods available on the landscape this year, we’re seeing excellent production,” said Owen Fitzsimmons, TPWD dove program leader. “White-winged dove production, in particular, has been very high in the southern half of the state. Plus, many of the states to the north had similar spring habitat conditions, which should result in a strong influx of migrant birds for Texas later in the season. I’m excited about the prospects this season, it should be fantastic.”
Dove hunting is huge in Texas, with a deep culture that spans generations. Each fall, more than 300,000 Texas hunters take to the field where they harvest nearly one third of all mourning doves taken nationwide each year -- on average an estimated 10 million birds -- far more than any other state. While those statistics may appear staggering, consider Texas supports breeding populations of over 34 million mourning and 10 million white-winged doves, and those numbers rise even higher during the fall when birds from northern latitudes funnel south.
The regular dove season in the North Zone runs Sept. 1-Nov. 12 and resumes Dec. 20-Jan.5, 2020. The regular season in the Central Zone is Sept. 1-Nov. 3, then resumes Dec. 20-Jan.14, 2020. The regular season in the South Zone is Sept. 14-Nov. 3 and Dec. 20-Jan. 23, 2020. The Special White-Winged Dove Days in the South Zone are Sept. 1-2 and 7-8.
Texas hunters should note the Sunday start to the season in the North and Central Zones, as well as for the Special White-Winged Dove Days this year due to calendar shift, but, hopefully hunters will be able to take advantage of Labor Day on Monday, Sept. 2, too.
South Zone hunters should also be sure to double-check their calendars this year for what is an unfamiliar Saturday start also due to calendar shift and federal restrictions on opening dates that prohibit starting the South Zone season prior to Sept. 14.
“Over the years, TPWD has worked very hard to open up more of September to our hunters in the southern part of the state,” said Fitzsimmons. “The vast majority of our dove harvest occurs in September. Getting the feds to agree to a set Sept. 14 South Zone opener beginning last year ensures hunting opportunity in the south every weekend in September when you consider the early whitewing days.”
During the early two weekends for the Special White-winged Dove Days (in the South Zone), hunting is allowed only from noon to sunset and the daily bag limit is 15 birds, to include not more than two mourning doves and two white-tipped doves. During the regular season in the South Zone, the aggregate bag limit is 15 with no more than two white-tipped doves.
All of the most up-to-date hunting regulations for the new season can be found in the Texas Outdoor Annual mobile app or online at OutdoorAnnual.com.
Hunters are reminded that licenses are on sale now for the 2019-2020 hunting seasons and can be purchased through the agency’s 28 law enforcement field offices, at more than 50 state parks and over 1,700 retailers across the state. Licenses may also be purchased online through the TPWD website or by phone at (800) 895-4248. Call center hours are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and there is a required $5 administrative fee for each phone or online transaction. The online transaction system is available 24/7.
New this year, enhancements have been made to make the licensing process simpler and faster. “Expedited checkout” speeds the process of re-purchasing the same license items bought most recently within the last three years. It’s also now easier to show proof-of-license. Now hunters can use a digital image of their license as proof-of-license for any hunting that doesn’t require a tag, like dove hunting. Accepted formats include: (1) a digital photo, (2) an emailed receipt, (3) within the Outdoor Annual app or the My Texas Hunt Harvest app, or 4) online purchase record.
In addition to a hunting license, anyone born after Sept. 1, 1971, must successfully complete a hunter education training course in order to hunt legally in Texas. The TPWD Hunter Education certification is valid for life and is honored in all other states and provinces. More information about hunter education is available online. If you misplace your certification you can print a replacement online at no cost.
A Migratory Game Bird endorsement and Harvest Information Program (HIP) certification are also required to hunt dove. HIP certification involves a brief survey of previous year’s migratory bird hunting success and is conducted at the time licenses are purchased.