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CHRIS SMITH

Thursday was the first day of hunting season in Texas.

Dove hunting is the annual kickoff of hunting season. It’s usually a hot weather period, but the opener somehow makes the heat a little more bearable.

There will be barbecue, fish fries, steaks and any of a hundred other party entrees at dove fields across the state. Texans typically don’t need much of a reason to celebrate, but the dove opener really brings out the numbers.

One undeniable fact has withstood the test of time and generations, this year will be no different. People will shoot more shells than doves. And, we’ll enjoy every single shot.

The drought conditions throughout much of the state is reason enough to question the dove production. According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the drought heavily impacted the agricultural fields that dove use/require. The dove is resourceful and will increase breeding production during droughts to help ensure their numbers.

Although the TP&W counted fewer breeding pairs this spring due to the poor conditions of 2021 and recruitment. During the summer banding/survey work, young dove numbers were up due to the reproduction uptick. Sounds like we will still have good numbers and to put it into perspective.

Texas is home to around 40 million doves, 25 million mourning doves and 15 million whitewings. Texas hunters harvest around 10 million dove each year. Sounds like a ton of jalapenos and bacon are a player in the annual $300 million dove hunting brings to the state.

The drought is actually a boon for the dove hunter.

Lack of water in most areas means that the water holes that still exist should be a beacon for the birds. Hunting a farm pond near a feeding/grit source is always a good plan but during drought it’s even better. Goatweed, aka Croton, fields have long been a “go-to” for an afternoon dove shoot. Freshly plowed ground is another strong attractant for pulling in birds. Post up at an H-brace on a fence line and watch.

It’s like magic but if there happens to be an old, dead tree in your field, the dove will light in the tree and coast down to their chosen feeding area. The tree does not have to be dead and it may be a power line or telephone pole. The dove just like to survey things a bit before they totally commit.

Add a gravel road and the aforementioned pond/tank and you may be in THE spot. Be mobile and be ready to move if you see the birds using one area more.

A special note: If hunters find a Eurasian collared-dove with an orange band, the bands should be reported to the Texas Dove Hunters Association. It’s part of a research project to study the habits of the invasive species.

Bring plenty to drink and watch the heat.

 
 

 

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