A booming white-wing population is a boon for Lone Star lead slingers
Dove hunting is arguably among the most fun and social means of hunting. Most of the time it revolves around relaxing with plenty of cold beverages, good conversations and in-the-field antics. It’s a sport just about anyone can enjoy and makes for a great outing with family and friends.
Doves provide hunters with some of the most affordable opportunities to chase wild game in Texas. Basically, all you need to hunt dove is a shotgun, shells and a place. Sure, there are some other gear items that could marginally improve your success on occasion, but they aren’t necessary. In fact, donning camouflage isn’t all that important, especially when the birds are thick.
The combination of a nonchalant environment and affordability is what attracts most folks to dove hunting. Add the wing-shooting action it involves, and the chance to get gun dogs back to doing what they love, and it’s clear why so many are chomping at the bit to chase the migratory game birds as dove seasons open this month.
For the fourth year in a row, Texas dove hunters can take advantage of early September opportunities statewide. These result from expansion of the Special White-winged Dove Area, which went into effect in the 2017-18 license season. This regulation change broadened the Special White-winged Dove Area to include the entire South Dove Zone.
Before this regulation change, South Zone hunters had to wait until later in the month to join the action Central and North Zone hunters already were enjoying. That’s unless they were able to hunt in the Special White-winged Dove Area, which was limited to the Rio Grande Valley at that time. The reason behind expansion of the special area is pretty simple — the white-winged dove’s range in Texas has significantly increased over the years.
“We are finding them all over,” said Owen Fitzsimmons, Texas Parks & Wildlife Department’s Webless Migratory Game Bird Program leader.
“Since the early 1990s, we’ve had population estimates as high as 1 million white-wings in urban areas like Corpus Christi and San Antonio. The birds have now expanded their range right up the I-35 corridor to the Dallas-Fort Worth region, and we are even seeing good numbers of them in parts of East Texas, too.”
As many as 85 percent of Texas white-winged doves are found in and around cities and urban areas, Fitzsimmons said.
“We consider a large portion of these birds to be nonmigratory, based on banding data,” he said. “Harvests of banded white-wings are revealing that the majority of these birds don’t travel very far from urban areas. Some of them never travel farther than a 500-yard radius outside of the town that they live in.”
There are plenty of places for hunters to take advantage of the Lone Star State’s booming white-winged dove population. Just about anywhere with crop fields, water or other food sources near a city limit is likely to attract plenty of white-wings.
The Special White-winged Dove Season dates for the South Zone include Sept. 5, 6, 12 and 13.
The regular dove season in the South Zone opens Sept. 14 and commences in the Central and North zones on Sept. 1.
Once the regular season begins, it’s game-on for hunters of both white-wings and mourning dove. In South Texas, areas around Dilley, Pearsall, Uvalde and Hondo sport some prime dove hunting grounds. Farther north, excellent dove hunts can be enjoyed around the Coleman and Abilene regions. El Campo is another great area, especially when it comes to white-wings.
Food sources are key to finding hordes of dove. Fields of seed-bearing crops such as sunflowers, millet, sorghum, corn and milo are usually swarming with birds in September.
Water sources also are important. That’s why stock ponds and cattle tanks offer some of the best dove hunting around on hot afternoons, especially if there are very few other water sources nearby.
It’s time to pull out the shotguns and make some memories in the field. There are opportunities to pursue dove across our state, so don’t miss out. Grab some buddies, the family and go sling some lead. Even if your shots miss more than they hit feathers, it’s still guaranteed to be one heck of a good time.
If you’re interested in finding a place to dove hunt, contact Nate Skinner at Nate@NateSkinnerPhotography.com and he can point you in the right direction.