Though Hurricane Harvey caused a significant drop in dove hunter effort and harvest numbers last year, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department expects the 2018-19 season to be back to normal. In Texas terms, normal means exceptional.
Opening day of dove hunting is Saturday, Sept. 1 statewide. For the third consecutive year, Texas dove hunters can look forward to a liberal 90-day season and 15-bird daily bag limits. In addition, hunters in Texas’ South Dove Zone have the opportunity to hunt every weekend in September thanks to the Special White-winged Dove Days Sept. 1, 2, 8, and 9, combined with a Sept. 14 zone opener, the earliest in half a century. Though hunting hours are limited to afternoons during the Special White-winged Dove Days (noon-sunset), hunters in the southern portion of the state are now able to take advantage of the earlier dates in which the majority of dove harvest in Texas occurs.
Over 300,000 Texas hunters harvest nearly one third of the mourning doves taken nationwide each year, far more than any other state. In recent years, an estimated 10 million doves are harvested in Texas annually. While Texas supports breeding populations of over 34 million mourning and 10 million white-winged doves, those numbers swell during the fall when birds from northern latitudes funnel south.
“Texas is uniquely situated to catch a lot of migratory birds as they move through the central part of the continent. Couple that with the fact that we are such a big state with diverse habitats, and it makes sense that we have such large numbers of doves,” said Owen Fitzsimmons, TPWD Dove Program Leader.
“Despite the dry conditions this summer, we had excellent production very early in the spring thanks to a mild winter and good rains in February and March, so there are a lot of birds around,” Fitzsimmons said. “Unless we get significant rain in the next couple of weeks, hunters really need to key in on areas with water. That’s where the birds will be concentrated.”
White-winged doves were historically found in the lower Rio Grande Valley, but they have rapidly expanded in numbers and distribution across Texas in recent years. According to Fitzsimmons, white-wing populations continue to grow and are making up a larger percentage of daily bag limits state-wide. White-wings are now found mostly in and around urban areas, providing hunting opportunity for those hunting just outside major cities and urban centers.
During the early two weekends for the Special White-winged Dove Days (in the South Zone), hunting is allowed only from noon to sunset and the daily bag limit is 15 birds, to include not more than two mourning doves and two white-tipped doves. During the general season in the South Zone, the aggregate bag limit is 15 with no more than two white-tipped doves.
Hunters are reminded that licenses went on sale Aug. 15 for the 2018-19 hunting seasons and can be purchased through the agency’s 28 law enforcement field offices, at more than 50 state parks and over 1,700 retailers across the state. Licenses may also be purchased online through the TPWD website or by phone at (800) 895-4248. Call center hours are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and there is a required $5 administrative fee for each phone or online transaction. The online transaction system is available 24/7.
Hunting and fishing regulations for the new season are available in the Outdoor Annual in print, online and on the Outdoor Annual mobile app. A limited number of Outdoor Annual booklets can be picked up at any of the 1,700 license retailers. A Spanish language version is also available online.
To get more information on Texas hunting and fishing throughout the year, sign up for free email updates at www.tpwd.texas.gov/email or by texting TPWD HUNT or TPWD FISH and your email address to 468-311 (ex. TPWD HUNT firstname.lastname@example.org).
In addition to a hunting license, anyone born after Sept. 1, 1971, must successfully complete a hunter education training course in order to hunt legally in Texas. The TPWD Hunter Education certification is valid for life and is honored in all other states and provinces. More information about hunter education is available online. If you misplace your certification you can print a replacement online at no cost.
A Migratory Game Bird endorsement and Harvest Information Program (HIP) certification are also required to hunt dove. HIP certification involves a brief survey of previous year’s migratory bird hunting success and is conducted at the time licenses are purchased.
2018-19 Dove Season Calendar
North Zone: Sept. 1 – Nov. 4 and Dec. 21-Jan. 14, 2019.
Central Zone: Sept. 1 – Nov. 4 and Dec. 21-Jan. 14, 2019.
Special White-winged Dove Days (entire South Zone): Sept. 1-2, 8-9.
South Zone: Sept. 14 – Oct. 30 and Dec. 14 – Jan. 21, 2019.