The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department estimates promising hunting conditions ahead of the start of dove season, despite the fact that 2020 surveys of dove populations were canceled due to ongoing public health concerns.
Each year, dove season begins in September for more than 300,000 Texas hunters.
According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, a breeding population of about 25 million mourning doves and up to 15 million white-winged doves in Texas indicates that conditions are ripe for a fruitful season.
Dove population numbers increase during the hunting season as doves migrate into Texas from other areas.
With favorable habitat conditions throughout much of Texas leading into September, hunters can expect a favorable season, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department said.
Above-average rainfall during the spring has led to prime habitat conditions during the nesting months of May and June.
According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, biologists suggest that dry conditions in the northern and western regions of Texas could help to concentrate birds around food and water sources during the hunting season.
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Parts of South Texas and the Rio Grande Valley received significant rainfall during Hurricane Hanna, but it is unclear if these rains will have an effect on doves come September.
"It's hard to say exactly how regional dove populations are affected by hurricanes and other extreme weather events," Owen Fitzsimmons, TPWD Dove Program Leader, said. "In this case, I anticipate minimal impacts to September hunting, but the extra rain could lead to better late-season habitat when food is often scarce. South Zone hunters should be ready for some potential late-season action."
Normal seasonal weather events like cold fronts can be instrumental for hunting success by kick-starting fall migration, Fitzsimmons said.
"Doves will concentrate in bigger fall flights ahead of the fronts, making for some excellent hunting opportunities," Fitzsimmons said. "These groups will often feed heavily in one area for a few days before moving on. Hunters should look to take advantage of any fronts during the season."
Texas makes up one-third of the overall mourning dove harvest in the United States, and the state also makes up about one-third of the overall dove hunters in the country.
Throughout the state, there are three dove game species: mourning, white-winged, and white-tipped doves.
Despite the cancellation of this year's annual dove surveys, banding efforts continued statewide as TPWD biologists placed leg bands on thousands of doves to monitor the factors that influence their populations.
Information from hunter-reported bands provides estimates of harvest and survival rates which is used in conjunction with data from the Harvest Information Program, Parts Collection Survey, and other harvest surveys to manage populations and set annual hunting regulations.
Hunters are encouraged to report any birds they recover that have leg bands, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department said.
Dove hunters should purchase their new 2020-2021 Texas hunting license prior to hunting this fall. Those hunting dove must also have the migratory game bird endorsement and be HIP-certified. It is also required by law that hunters have proof of their completion of a hunter education course.
Anyone hunting on Texas Public Hunting Lands is also required to purchase an Annual Public Hunting Permit.
Dove season dates, regulations, bag limits, and more can be found in the digital Outdoor Annual. Hunters can also access digital copies of their licenses on the Outdoor Annual and My Texas Hunt Harvest apps.