AUSTIN, Texas -- Dove hunters in Texas can have their cake and eat it, too. In adopting changes to this year^s migratory game bird hunting regulations, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission reached a compromise that provides the greatest opportunity for hunting success.
Under framework approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Texas has the option of keeping the current 60-day mourning dove season and 15-bird daily bag limit or adopting a 70-day season and a 12-bird daily bag. Because neither combination affects the resource, TPW wildlife staff looked to the hunters to help choose the format.
Basing their decision largely on extensive public comment and results from a random survey of several thousand dove hunters, the commission chose to retain a 60-day season and 15-bird daily bag limit for dove hunting in the North Zone and returned 10 additional days of hunting in exchange for a reduction of three birds in the bag for the remainder of the state.
The move in effect maximizes hunting opportunity of a migratory resource as it passes through the state. In an average year, hunters in North Texas can expect to see more dove in the field early in the season. This year^s season in the North Zone will run Sept. 1 through Oct. 30 with a daily bag limit of 15 birds.
Cooler weather tends to push the birds southward, providing more opportunity later in the year for hunters in the Central and South Zones. By tacking 10 additional hunting days onto the end of the first split in the Central Zone season, hunters in that region can take advantage of dove migration during the first cold snaps of late October. This year, the season in the Central Zone will run Sept. 1 through Oct. 28 and Dec. 26 through Jan. 6 with a daily bag limit of 12 birds.
In the South Zone, by adding a few days to the front end of the second split the commission is providing additional hunting opportunity for young hunters on holiday break from school. TPW statistics reveal the average dove hunter bags only about four birds in an outing, so the difference between a 12- and 15-bird limit is inconsequential. But for some South Texas hunters, an extended hunting season for doves in January could provide additional opportunity, particularly in tandem with quail hunting. The South Zone season will run Sept. 21 through Nov. 4 and Dec. 22 through Jan. 15 with a daily bag limit of 12 birds this year. In future years the second split will open on the Saturday before Christmas.
In addition to dove seasons, the commission also gave preliminary approval for other early migratory game bird seasons, pending final decisions on season framework by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service later this summer.
Last year, Texas did not gain federal approval to expand sandhill crane hunting opportunity along the Texas coastal bend. This year, wildlife officials believe a compromise with the USFWS will pave the way for the change, which would extend Zone C along the mid and lower coast. In exchange, the bag limit in Zone C would be reduced from three cranes to two. The decision by the USFWS will come in late June.
TPW also proposes an early closure for a small portion of the northeast corner of the sandhill crane Zone B, which would eliminate the need to close the entire zone at the start of a special light goose conservation season in the eastern goose zone. Currently, a small portion of Zone B in North Texas lies within the eastern goose zone, and under federal requirements, all other migratory game bird seasons must be closed before a special light goose season can begin.
Late season regulation proposals for regular duck and goose seasons will be considered at the Aug. 30 commission meeting.