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Dove season is open

Dove season in the Central Zone, which includes Blanco, Burnet, and Llano counties, is Sept. 1-Oct. 31 and Dec. 17-Jan. 14, 2022. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department photo

Despite February's brutal freeze, the dove population remains strong and resilient, according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Good news for hunters as dove season in the Central Zone began Sept. 1.

The Central Zone includes Blanco, Burnet, and Llano counties. The season runs through Oct. 31; a late season is Dec. 17-Jan. 14, 2022.

The biggest storm impact on dove numbers was in the North Zone, which stretches from Texarkana in the East to Fort Hancock in the west. “Our spring dove surveys suggest that there may have been some impacts from the winter storm, particularly in the northern half of the state, but it’s difficult to know the extent since dove populations naturally fluctuate from year to year,” said Owen Fitzsimmons, TPWD Dove Program leader. “The most evident impact seems to be in the North Zone, where white-wing estimates are below average overall. I don’t anticipate any long-term impacts. The good rainfall this spring and summer has resulted in good production, which will help offset any losses and allow a quick recovery.”

Fitzsimmons said statewide breeding populations are about average this year with 25 million mourning doves and 12 million white-winged doves.

He anticipates an excellent year for dove hunters in the South Zone, which is basically everything south of Interstate 10 from Orange in the east to San Antonio before taking U.S. 90 to Del Rio.

The Central and North zones should see an average season.

The wet spring and somewhat mild summer have boosted dove habitat and food sources, TPWD officials said.

Dove prefer a diet of seeds, whether from native plants or agriculture production. They’ll dine on seeds from annual sunflowers and grasses as well as ragweed. Hunters who locate an abundant source of seeds increase their odds of seeing doves.

A water source is also important.

The first part of the season tends to favor local doves. As the weather turns colder, migrating birds from the northern states fly into Texas. And fewer hunters head to the fields during the late season as temperatures drop.

Dove hunters should purchase their 2021-22 Texas hunting license prior to hitting the field this fall. Hunters also must have the migratory game bird endorsement and be Harvest Information Program-certified. Hunters must accurately answer the HIP questions when becoming certified, and, if a vendor does not ask questions about hunting activity last season, hunters are encouraged to ask that they do so. It’s also required by state law that hunters have proof of their completion of a hunter education course.

Dove hunting hours are a half-hour before sunrise to sunset.

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