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 one out of every four 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 Oct. 20. The season will reopen Dec. 19 and run through Jan. 7 in the North and Central Zones.
The South Zone opens Sept. 19 and runs through Oct. 20. The second segment will run Dec. 19 through Jan. 25.
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 Sept. 19 and continue through Oct. 20, and then reopen Dec. 19 through Jan. 21. 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.