Dove season set to begin Saturday in Texas' Central Zone
Saturday begins the 2018 fall hunting season. The Central Zone Texas dove season opens at sunrise. Dove season always signals the fall to me. Not that it feels like fall. The opening days of dove season are always a sweaty affair. Saturday afternoon will welcome us hunters with 103 degree temperature.
Dove season should be back to normal this year. Hurricane Harvey threw a bomb into the opening days as of the season last year. It caused a significant drop in hunter effort and harvest numbers.
For the third consecutive year, Texas dove hunters can look forward to a liberal 90-day season and 15-bird daily limit.
Owen Fitzsimmons, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) Dove Program Leader, said, “Despite the dry conditions this summer, we had excellent production very early in the spring thanks to a mild winter and good rains in February and March, so there are a lot of birds around.”
If it does not rain tomorrow hunters should key in on water holes, especially in the afternoons. Morning hunts near water can be good but action usually gets hot after the birds feed.
I recently scouted a cattle tank near Stairtown where I have permission to hunt. There were not big numbers of doves in the area but by later in the afternoon doves began to come for the water to drink. Not huge numbers but those that did come were easy straight-on shots. I have hunted water holes in dry seasons when so many birds flocked to the water that you couldn’t decide which target to key on. Maybe this tank will be like that later in the season. But it will provide some shooting Saturday afternoon.
Lots of fields have goat weed, sometimes called T-weed, in them. Doves love the big, round, black seeds that goat weed provides when the pods open. But the drought has really hammered the goat weed. Most of it is not tall and full of seeds. It looks scrubby.
The best fields will probably be harvested corn and Milo fields. I hope that happens. Two of my friends have a dove lease east of San Marcos that usually provides red-hot shooting over harvested corn. But they recently scouted and found very few birds.
I scouted a friend’s place Sunday afternoon where I shot big numbers of the invasive dove species called ringnecks or Eurasian doves. But my scouting trip revealed only a few of the big grey-white ringnecks, no white wings and only a few mourning doves.
Like San Antonio, New Braunfels and Austin the San Marcos city limits is home to huge numbers of white-winged doves. Whitewings were historically found only in the lower Rio Grande Valley, but they have rapidly expanded in numbers and distribution across Texas in recent years. According to Fitzsimons, white-wing populations continue to grow and are making up a larger percentage of daily bag limits state-wide. All the white-wings that roost in urban centers must fly out each morning to feed in local corn, maize, goat weed and croton (dove weed) fields. Sometimes they offer high shots way up in the ozone. I love to shoot at those high-flying white-wings on their flight to feeding fields.
So this dove season should be a good one as it usually is in Texas. Over 3,000,000 Texas hunters harvest nearly one third of the mourning doves taken nationwide each year, far more than any other state. In recent years, an estimated 10 million doves are harvested in Texas annually... While Texas supports breeding populations of over 34 million mourning and 10-million white-winged doves, those numbers swell during the fall when birds from northern latitudes funnel south.
“Texas is uniquely situated to catch a lot of migratory birds as they move through the central part of the continent. Couple that with the fact that we are such a big state with diverse habitats, and it makes sense that we have such large numbers of doves,” said Fitzsimmons.
I love to hunt late in the season when big numbers of migrant birds show up. Hunter’s interest has usually waned, the weather is cooler but the shooting can be hot. My lease In Panna Maria in the South Zone (September 14 Opener) can really get hot in late October.
If you need a place to hunt the San Marcos Westside 4-H hunt on the Krackau Ranch on Hwy 621 is already full. It’s a great hunt for a great cause. Next year instead of a B-B-Q lunch they will serve steak. Make your reservations now for the 2019 hunt. It is always held second Saturday of dove season. Call Lori Krackau at 210-325-8972.
My Labrador retriever is eager to start the 2018 hunting season and so am I. I’m sure you are ready also.
The Central Zone for doves will continue through Nov. 4. Then a shorter winter season – Dec. 21 – Jan. 14, 2019. South Zone: Sept. 14-Oct. 30. Winter season: Dec. 14 – Jan. 21. 2021.