TPWD Finalizes Dove, Teal Seasons

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©TPWD/Photo by Chris HaysAUSTIN, Texas — The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department finalized the early season migratory game bird regulations, which includes dove and teal seasons for 2008-09. Texas hunters will see a 16-day September teal season and no changes to the South Dove Zone segments.

The North Zone runs Sept. 1-Oct. 30, with a 15-bird bag and not more than two white-tipped dove; the Central Zone is Sept. 1-Oct. 30 and reopens Dec. 26-Jan. 4, with a 12-bird bag and not more than two white-tipped dove. Possession limit is twice the daily bag.

This year, the South Zone dove season is Sept. 20-Nov. 9, reopening Dec. 26-Jan. 13 with a 12 bird bag and not more than two white-tipped dove. Possession limit is twice the daily bag limit.

The Special White-winged Dove Area, which now encompasses land west of I-35 and south of U. S. Highway 90, opens to white-winged dove afternoon-only (noon to sunset) hunting Sept. 6-7 and 13-14 and reopens Sept. 20-Nov. 9 and again from Dec. 26-Jan. 9. The daily bag limit during the first two weekend splits is 12 birds, not more than four (4) mourning dove and two (2) white-tipped dove. The daily bag limit during the remainder of the Special White-winged Dove Area is 12 birds, not more than two (2) white-tipped dove. Possession limit is twice the daily bag.

Teal season is Sept. 13-28 with a daily bag limit of 4 birds. Possession limit is twice the daily bag.

Hunters should note the dove and teal season dates and bag limits are not included in this year’s Outdoor Annual of hunting and fishing regulations. Information will be available in the Early Season Migratory Game Bird Digest supplement, available Aug. 15 on the TPWD Web site and wherever hunting and fishing licenses are sold.

A proposed dove season rule that would have removed one week of hunting opportunity from the end of the first season segment in the South Zone and added it to the end of the second season segment was not approved. Although public comment was supportive of the proposed amendment, the department has decided to retain the traditional structure because of other considerations resulting from public comment.

“Public comment received by the department indicates a growing concern among hunters, landowners, outfitters, and local businesses that economic factors are increasingly affecting hunting habits or will affect them in the future,” said Mike Berger, TPWD wildlife director. “The department therefore made the decision to leave the traditional season structure in place for the current year while launching an outreach effort to determine if the traditional and historic dove season structure should be altered for future seasons.”

In keeping with hunter and landowner preferences, dove seasons have traditionally been opened on the earliest day legally allowed under frameworks established by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, irrespective of which day of the week the date fell. Under federal law, dove hunting in the United States cannot begin before Sept. 1.

Sept. 1, as opening day of dove hunting in Texas, has been part of the state’s hunting tradition ever since the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 was signed. Treaties with Canada and Mexico established the framework for the taking of all migratory game birds, including dove.

“This year, Sept. 1 falls on Labor Day, a Monday, which is a good thing because it’s a holiday for many Texans, and like having another Saturday,” said Vernon Bevill, TPWD game bird program director. “The bad thing is, the next day isn’t Sunday, it’s back to work Tuesday.”

Similarly, this year’s South Zone dove season opener falls on Saturday, Sept. 20. Traditionally, dove season in South Texas has opened on the Friday after the 20th unless the 20th is a Saturday. Federal frameworks currently prevent opening the South Zone before the 20th.

Berger said recent public comment received by the department indicates a strong preference for seasons to open on a Friday, so as to create a three-day hunting opportunity to open the season. Recent public comment also indicates a preference for the 60-day/15-bird configuration in the South Zone.

“A recurrent theme was the concern that increased consumer costs, particularly transportation costs related to energy prices, make anything less than a three-day opening weekend economically unjustifiable,” said Berger. “Similarly, proponents of the 60-day/15-bird configuration stated that economic considerations would cause them to curtail the number of times they could go hunting, leading them to prefer a higher daily bag limit. In the past, hunters and others have expressed an aversion to delaying the opening day until the first full weekend, preferring the earliest possible opener.”

Hunters looking for a place to hunt dove should consider TPWD’s public hunting opportunities. According to Linda Campbell, TPWD public hunting program director, the department manages more than 50,000 acres of dove hunting units. Hunting access to these areas is available with purchase of a $48 Annual Public Hunting Permit, available Aug. 15 wherever hunting and fishing licenses are sold.

A map booklet detailing locations and additional information about the 143 public dove hunting units is included with the Annual Public Hunting Permit and will be available on the TPWD Web site beginning Aug. 15. A permit is not required to access the map booklet information online.

TPWD dove program coordinator Jay Roberson anticipates an above average hunting season for doves this fall, based on habitat conditions. “We had a pretty dry spring and doves do well in those conditions,” he noted. “The birds weren’t responding last year to predictions of good food availability and many doves stayed to the north. I’m guardedly optimistic this year.”

Roberson reported hearing of good numbers of doves across South Texas and anticipates hunters should have good success if they can identify flight patterns. Conditions are expected to change in the weeks heading into the season, particularly in the wake of recent weather resulting from Hurricane Dolly.