Texas hunters taking to fields to hunt dove Sept. 1 should find an average crop, and birds’ access to food and water will be a major factor in harvest success, according to Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service experts.
Dr. Maureen Frank, AgriLife Extension wildlife specialist, Uvalde, said dove adjust well to drought conditions because they can move to areas with more food and water, but that means hunter success will vary around the state due to conditions and food and water availability.
Dove are negatively impacted by drought much less than quail, which rely on insects and native forbs, she said. Agriculture crops such as sesame, sunflowers and sorghum are attractive food sources to dove.
“Dove populations are much more stable than quail because they utilize agricultural fields,” she said.
Dr. John Tomecek, AgriLife Extension wildlife specialist, Thrall, said bird populations were spotty in Texas due to drought.
Hunters with access to areas where the birds have food sources, water and roosts should have an advantage over areas without, he said. The loss of commodity crops due to drought allowed annual volunteer plants, including sunflowers, to emerge.
“Birds will be moving between food and water sources as they make their way south,” he said. “Food and water are in short supply in a lot of areas, so the places that do have these, and trees to roost in, should hold a lot of birds.”
Providing food sources for dove can improve hunter success, but it can also be illegal if state laws are not followed, Tomecek said.
In Texas, the official recommendations regarding “normal agricultural operation” are produced by AgriLife Extension, Tomecek said. Recommendations can be found at https://bit.ly/2OULRSE.
Broadcasting seed or grains before and during dove season in an attempt to attract birds is illegal, he said. But broadcasting in the normal act of planting winter forages is legal when standard practices of seed drilling, or broadcasting on prepared beds followed by light disking or dragging is incorporated.
When it comes to dove, farmers are allowed to grow seed- and grain-bearing crops such as sesame or sorghum for the sole purpose of attracting dove and can manipulate stands in any way throughout the season to provide a food source for birds, Tomecek said.
“The best way to explain it is that if you put seed or grain on the ground this time of year, it’s likely illegal,” he said. “If you planted it and it is maturing during hunting season, you can manipulate it in any way to hunt over it throughout the season.”
AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:
CENTRAL: Much-needed rains improved pasture and hay field conditions. One area reported 2 inches of rain. Producers hope the rain will translate into a late-season cutting of hay. Daytime temperatures remained in the upper 90s. Conditions were still dry. Corn harvest was nearing completion with very few fields remaining. Cotton harvest began. Cattle remained in good body condition. Stock pond levels were still low. Supplemental feed was needed for livestock on pasture. Nearly all counties reported poor soil moisture and poor rangeland and pasture conditions. Overall crop and livestock conditions were fair in the majority of counties.
ROLLING PLAINS: Scattered rains fell across parts of the district with amounts ranging from 0.75 of an inch to 6 inches, while some counties reported no rainfall. Although rain may be too late for summer crops, it was needed for fall planting. Most dryland cotton was plowed up, while irrigated cotton was fair to good. Green-up and forage growth was good in areas that received rain. Ranchers were still downsizing cow herds due to lack of hay. There were concerns about prussic acid poisoning in forage sorghums. Wildfires were still a concern in the drier counties.
COASTAL BEND: Hot, dry weather continued to deplete soil moisture. Rice and corn harvests continued. Extremely high aflatoxin levels were reported in several corn fields. Soybean and sorghum harvest neared completion. Cotton harvest continued with a majority of cotton being defoliated. Yields of cotton were average or below at 1-1.5 bales per acre. Native pecans were dropping nuts prematurely due to hot, dry weather conditions. Hay making was in full swing though yields were not promising. Pasture conditions continued to deteriorate and supplemental feeding increased. Cattle remained in fair to good condition despite short forage availability.
EAST: Many counties received small, sporadic rainfall that did not improve deteriorating conditions throughout the district. San Augustine County reported no rainfall, while Jasper County reported good summer rains but overall dry conditions. Surface water was a problem for most producers in the district as ponds and creeks were drying up. Pasture and rangeland conditions were fair in Polk, Shelby, Jasper, San Augustine and Gregg counties, and all others reported poor to very poor conditions. Trinity County reported concerns about a lack of grass growth. Wood County reported hay was difficult to find, forcing producers to ship it in. Smith, Marion, Gregg and Cherokee county producers continued to seek hay despite high prices. Topsoil conditions were adequate in San Augustine and Gregg counties, and were short to very short in all other counties. Subsoil conditions were adequate in San Augustine and Gregg counties while all other counties reported short to very short conditions. Cherokee, Gregg and Smith county producers continued to cull cattle. Trinity County conditions forced some producers to sell out completely and others to worry about the near future if conditions don’t change. Gregg County reported calf prices were up per hundredweight, and prices for cows remained steady. Shelby County reported large numbers of cattle at their sale barn. Armyworms continued to eat what little grass came back with recent rains in Shelby, Houston and Henderson counties. Houston County reported multiple fields were wiped out, and many producers lost their next cutting of hay due to armyworms. Fly numbers continued to be high in Henderson County. Wood and Henderson counties reported wild pig control was ongoing.
SOUTH PLAINS: Subsoil and topsoil moisture levels remained adequate to short. Some areas received 1-3 inches of rainfall, but rains were spotty and there were still many areas that missed moisture. Cotton growth ranged from beginning bloom to hard cut-out with zero nodes above white flower. Producers were concerned cotton bolls would develop poorly or drop over the next several days. Bollworm activity was noted along with a few reports of aphids in several fields, including Bt cotton. Producers were conducting pest and weed management. Grain sorghum continued to be scouted regularly for sugarcane aphid activity. Peanuts, sorghum and sunflowers continued to mature. Producers were preparing to plant winter wheat. Pastures and rangelands remained fair to poor. Area crops needed rain. Cattle continued to be in good condition.
PANHANDLE: Temperatures were near average. Moisture was received, but more was needed throughout the district. Soil moisture was mostly short. Amounts ranged from a trace to 2 inches in some areas. Rainfall was beneficial to crops, pastures and rangelands. Irrigation of crops continue. The corn crop was wrapping up with most fields in good shape with recent rainfall and irrigations to finish up the year. The cotton crop was all over the board with some fields already blooming out the top and several fields still having growth regulators applied to them. The cotton looked good in general. Silage harvest was starting with some early planted corn fields being sampled. Producers were starting to plant early wheat and hoping for rain to provide grazing. Lightning caused fires in pastures. Pasture and cattle conditions continued to decline in drier areas.
NORTH: Most counties received 1-5 inches of much needed rain, but intense heat with high humidity was reported. Pastures went from brown to green very quickly. Improved pastures, such as Bermuda and Klein grass, were thriving and should provide another cutting of hay. Some ponds were replenished, but others were still very low. Corn and grain sorghum harvests were delayed due to rain. Wheat and oat crops were excellent, while corn and sorghum were below average. Livestock looked good. Insect numbers were high due to recent rains and were causing light stress on the cattle. Some ranchers in Hopkins County reported fall armyworms.
FAR WEST: Temperatures were in the upper 90s with lows in the 60s. Rainfall averaged a trace to 4 inches. Insect problems on pecan trees were reported. Mosquito numbers were up. Fire danger was still a concern in many parts. Remaining cotton and rangelands should benefit from the rainfall. Conditions were still dry, but drought was no longer severe. Producers continued to water cotton and pecans. Winter wheat was being planted on numerous farms.
WEST CENTRAL: Rangeland and pastures greened up due to recent rains. Despite forage growth, forage availability was still short. Stock tanks remained low or dry and in need of runoff. Livestock were in fair condition with many producers already providing supplemental feed due to lack of grazing. Stocker steers and heifers sold $2 higher, while packer cows, bulls, feeder steers and feeder heifers sold steady. Pairs and bred cow prices were up.
SOUTHEAST: No report.
SOUTHWEST: Most counties received some rainfall last week, but not enough to make a huge difference. Pastures and range conditions continued to decline. Livestock producers continued to supplement with hay. Wildfire potential was still a concern.
SOUTH: Most parts of the district reported a continuation of hot and dry weather conditions with short to very short soil moisture levels. Temperatures reached 100 degrees consistently in some areas. Western portions of the district received scattered rain showers and reported adequate to short soil moisture levels. Producers continued to irrigate crops. Irrigated crops like Coastal Bermuda grass, watermelons and cantaloupes looked to be in good condition. Pecan orchards were in fair condition. Dryland cotton harvest continued, and irrigated cotton was defoliated. Pasture and rangeland conditions started to green up a little following recent rainfall, but livestock supplemental feeding continued. Pasture and rangeland conditions continued to deteriorate in drier areas. Surface water levels were declining with the summer heat, and horn fly populations were increasing. Body condition scores on cattle remained fair. Corn and sorghum harvests were nearing completion. Livestock producers reported supplemental feeding of livestock would continue until areas that received rainfall improved. Some producers were hauling water, and many producers began to cull their herds. Wildlife were being fed.