For hunters in Texas, Labor Day weekend symbolizes not only the kick-off to fall but the beginning of hunting season as well.
With an average of more than 300,000 people eager to participate each season and a larger dove population than any other state, dove hunting for Texans is about more than just the harvest – it is about community, the changing of the seasons, and the quiet stillness required to succeed.
Last year alone, Texas harvested more doves than any other state in the nation, taking approximately one-third of the 10 million mourning doves harvested despite heavy rains in the weeks leading up to the season’s official kickoff.
The state also supports breeding populations of more than 34 million mourning doves and 10 million white-winged doves.
This season has been highly anticipated as a great year for dove hunting because of the heavy rainfall acquired in the spring and hot dry conditions of late summer.
According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, “Dove populations have thrived this year thanks to the amount and timing of spring rains across most of the state that kicked habitat into high gear for dove breeding season.”
Sources at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department told The Texan that dove hunting contributes more than $300 million to the state economy and plays a particularly important role for small towns and rural communities who often see an uptake in tourism when the season begins.
Debra Stifflemire, executive director of the Conventions and Visitors Bureau (CVB) in Uvalde, discussed the many benefits that dove hunting season has for their local community, located deep within the Texas Hill Country.
When asked by The Texan if she noticed an uptake in the number of visitors, Stifflemire replied, “Absolutely. It’s almost impossible to get a room in the hotels here during bird season.”
She then continued by discussing how dove season, in particular, is more advantageous to the local economy when compared to other forms of hunting by saying, “Most of our bird hunters typically stay in hotels, whereas a lot of our deer hunters might stay out at ranches.”
The Uvalde CVB even partners with a local fishing, hunting, and wildlife store to host a Dove Expo and wild game dinner as a proper kick-off to the season.
As the grills are fired-up and the doves are wrapped in bacon and stuffed with jalapeno, as is the tradition for many hunters, here are some important things to know:
Legal game birds include mourning doves, white-winged doves, and white-tipped doves with a daily bag limit of 15 and a possession limit of 45.
Hunting across the state is broken down into three zones – North, Central, and South – each with its own seasonal beginning and end.
The 2019-2020 season is as follows:
- North Zone: September 1 – November 12 and December 20 – January 5
- Central Zone: September 1 – November 3 and December 20 – January 14
- South Zone: September 14 – November 3 and December 20 – January 23
Additionally, to be eligible to dove hunt in Texas, one must possess a valid hunting license, a Migratory Game Bird Endorsement, Harvest Information Program Certification, and must successfully complete a hunter education training course if born after September 1, 1979.
With that, happy hunting!
Sarah McConnell is a reporter for The Texan. Previously, she worked as a Cyber Security Consultant after serving as a Pathways Intern at the Department of Homeland Security – Citizenship and Immigration Services. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Texas A&M as well as her Master of Public Service and Administration degree from the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M. In her free time, Sarah is an avid runner, jazz enthusiast, and lover of all things culinary.