Special dove season opener on Sunday this year is confusing some - Brownsville Herald: Local News

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Special dove season opener on Sunday this year is confusing some

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Posted: Wednesday, August 14, 2019 3:29 pm

HARLINGEN — A quirk of the calendar is raising concerns about game violations surrounding the opening day of dove season in South Texas.

The traditional first day of hunting in the Valley, the Special White-Winged Dove Season, will occur on Sunday, Sept. 1, instead of the usual Saturday opener.

And Texas Game Wardens in the Rio Grande Valley are trying to educate hunters to head off what could be a big ticket day if folks unwittingly assume the usual dove opener is Saturday and begin shooting on Aug. 31.

Texas Game Warden Ira Zuniga says the wardens are fielding numerous phone calls seeking clarification about the change this year in the season opener.

“We’re going to have some people who are out there, a little confused,” Zuniga said. “We have to talk to some of these folks. But the Outdoor Annuals are already out and people are starting to read them and we’ve been getting a lot of calls regarding the Sunday-Monday deal.”

Federal regulations

The culprits, says Owen Fitzsimmons, Webless Migratory Game Bird program leader for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, are the calendar and federal regulations.

“It is an odd start for South Zone hunters this year,” Fitzsimmons said via email. “According to federal hunting regulations set by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, dove seasons cannot start prior to Sept. 1 anywhere in the U.S., including Texas.

“Starting last year, those same USFWS regulations now allow the South Zone to open as early as Sept. 14 for regular season,” he added. “The special white-winged dove days are designed to provide additional hunting opportunity for South Zone hunters during the first two weeks in September before the regular season starts.”

Fitzsimmons said Texas is allowed four special days to maximize hunting opportunities, which the state allocates to the early special white-winged season. He said TPWD usually assigns those to the first two weekends of September, but this year Sept. 1 falls on a Sunday.

Legal shooting hours during the four-day Special White-Winged Dove Season are noon to sunset.

“It is the responsibility of the hunter to know the rules and regulations,” Zuniga added. “Outdoor Annuals are provided free of charge at any sporting goods store where licenses are sold, and they can also download the Outdoor Annuals at Android or IoS (Apple) phone stores for free as well.”

Bird numbers good

The good news is the estimate of bird numbers for mourning doves, white-winged doves and white-tipped doves, the three species legal to hunt in Texas, appear to be up.

“As for hunting this year, I’m anticipating a strong season,” Fitzsimmons said. “The amount and timing of spring rains across most of the state really kicked the habitat into high gear for dove breeding season. Plus, many of the states north of us had similar conditions which should result in a strong influx of migrant birds for Texas.

“Breeding birds have high energetic costs, but with the abundant highly-preferred dove foods available on the landscape this year, we’re seeing excellent production,” he added. “White-wing production, in particular, has been very high in the southern half of the state, and we’re still seeing significant breeding activity in central and south Texas right now.”

Fitzsimmons said the hot, dry conditions will hopefully concentrate doves around feeding and watering areas, which would be optimal for hunters.

Last year, despite an abundance of birds, many South Texas wing-shooters were frustrated by weekend rains and the resulting muddy fields which led many hunters to stay home.

“As long as the weather holds up (I got rained out every hunt last year, as did many others), I’m optimistic we are going to have not only a great September, but a strong rest of the season, as well,” Fitzsimmons said.

rkelley@valleystar.com

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