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AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas dove hunters are being asked once again to choose between a longer season and bigger daily bag limit. At its May 31 meeting, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission will determine whether to retain the 60-day season and 15-bird daily bag that has been in effect since 1994 or revert to the 70-day season and 12-bird bag that had been in place for 12 years prior to 1994. The federal government regulates dove hunting, and Texas is allowed either season. The proposed dates for the 2001-2002 season are: Sept. 1, through Nov. 9, in the North Zone Sept. 1, through Oct. 28 and Dec. 26 through Jan.6 in the Central Zone Sept. 21, through Nov. 4 and Dec. 26 through Jan. 19 in the South Zone In addition to the 19 public hearings already held around the state, the public is invited to provide comment on the proposal at either of two upcoming meetings. The first meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, May 16, 7-9 p.m., at the Lion^s Field Adult and Senior Citizens Center, 2809 Broadway, San Antonio. A second is set for Thursday, May 17, from 7-9 p.m., at the Bass Pro Shop, 2501 Bass Pro Drive, Grapevine. Public comment may also be made in writing to Robert MacDonald, TPW Wildlife Regulations Coordinator, 4200 Smith School Road, Austin, TX 78744 or on the Web ( Jay Roberson, TPW dove program leader, said the 10 additional days allow the state to extend the season in October in the Central Zone and in January in the South Zone. "Many hunters have indicated a desire to take advantage of increased numbers of migrant doves," he offered. "Our limited information on dove densities in the fall indicated higher densities in Central and South Texas later in the year. It is believed that 10 additional days would provide more recreation and more doves taken than a drop of three birds in the daily bag limit. We do not anticipate that the total number of hunters participating will be affected by either option." According to TPW harvest surveys, most dove hunters don^t take 12 doves in an entire season regardless of the daily bag limit. On about 20 percent of the days hunted, hunters don^t bag a single dove, said Roberson. "There was no difference in the average doves taken per hunter per day (3.5) when the daily bag limit was 12 (1986-93) and when the bag limit of 15 (3.6; 1994-99)," he noted. The proposed change would also allow concurrent quail and dove hunting in the Central and South Dove Zones. " The approved quail season opening date for this fall will be October 27. This would allow two days of concurrent quail and dove hunting in October in the Central Zone and nine days of concurrent quail and dove hunting allowed in late October and early November in the South Zone," Roberson explained. "In addition, there would be 10 more days of concurrent quail and dove hunting allowed in January in the South Zone." Adding 10 days in the South Zone in January would allow more participation by college students when they are out of school for the holidays, Roberson added. Public comments and results of opinion surveys conducted by TPW on the dove season issue in the past have been mixed. Results of 1994 and 1998 surveys of Texas dove hunters indicated North Zone hunters preferred a 15-bird daily bag limit and a 60-day season. However, Central Zone hunters preferred a 12 dove daily bag limit and the 70-day season in 1994 but reversed their opinion in 1998. According to the survey, South Zone hunters were evenly split on this issue in 1994 but in 1998 preferred a 15-dove daily bag limit and a 60-day season by a slight margin. Conversely, public comments received from South Zone hunters that same year indicated just the opposite preference. TPW is conducting another survey of statewide hunters on this issue this year. Roberson said TPW wants to keep the daily bag limits and season lengths consistent statewide to simplify complying with the law. "Bag limits and season lengths for doves have never varied between zones in Texas," he said. "However, season opening dates do differ between zones to allow optimum hunting opportunity when dove densities are highest." take 15 doves in entire season

Uploaded: 5/11/2001