The season begins this Saturday and runs through Nov. 9. A second session is also set for the late season hunters as they can pursue the doves of the area from Dec. 26 through Jan. 13.
Dove populations are good and hunters can expect to find a lot of birds in the area. Locating a flight coming to roost from a feed plot or watering hole will be the key to getting your limit of 12 birds (mourning, whitewing and white-tipped doves). Only two of the dozen can be white-tipped doves and after the first day, a possession limit of 24 birds total will stand.
“I am cautiously optimistic,” said Mark Katzfey of the Live Oak County Katzfey Ranches.
“We’ve got plenty of birds but that cold front that just came through will have me scouting again today to find the birds and what fields they are using.”
The opening day hunters have the best shot at getting their limit as the flocks contain many young and uneducated birds. Even a fair shot can expect to get his share of birds early, but let the doves escape a few times and the wariness of the flying prey doubles or triples and getting a good shot is very tough.
Local landowners have seen lots of birds but the concentrations have been spotty. Those ranches offering day hunts and other organized shoots have plenty of birds. They should be able to put their hunters in good position to take advantage of the feed plots of sunflowers and milo that have been planted for the expressed purpose of attracting the birds along with the strategically placed watering holes.
“My tanks are down and that will help concentrate the birds,” Katzfey said.
Hurricane Ike may affect the local hunting.
“I’ve seen lots of birds this week, a lot more birds than last year,” said local landowner Gentry Wesson.
“Ike may have pushed more birds in early this year. They’re already grouped and that might mean this early cold front could push them on out,” Wesson said.
“It all depends on the weather.”
Wesson has opening day booked up with 15 hunters coming into his Bee County property. But, they are from Houston and he is unsure if all of them will still be coming to Bee County.
“Some years we have hunters and no birds and other years we have birds and no hunters,” Wesson said.
Hunters should be aware that their shotguns of the pump or auto variety must be plugged, limited to just three shells.
Hunters always have their favorite combination of shotgun and shell size that will boost their shooting prowess and effectively down their winged prey. Most hunters go for a 12-gauge with an improved or modified cylinder choke with an ounce or an ounce and a quarter of 7 1/2 shot. A good pattern would hold that a bird inside a 30-inch circle at 30-35 yards should get hit with at least four pellets. Hunters in the late season have been known to go with a tighter choke and a little bigger shot as the birds are much more wary and shots at the fast-flying doves will be in the 35-45-yard range.
Some hunters will opt for a lighter combination of a 20-gauge with number 8 shot to help with the recoil and get as many pellets in the air as possible to bring down the birds. Many of the local ranches and outfitters are having to deal with the results of Hurricane Ike, not necessarily with the direct effects but many hunters from the Houston area travel southwest into Bee and other South Texas counties to hunt. The realities of dealing with storm damage and no power do take first priority over finding and downing a few doves.
The season should be a good one and the hunters will be out in droves on Saturday morning. Remember, the legal shooting time begins a half hour before sunrise and goes to sunset.