UPDATED 6:45 a.m. June 3: The outfitter will provide supper on Aug. 31.
It is June so it’s time to take a sneak peak at the fall hunting seasons. Actually, it is time to start planning a few, and in this case it’s a dove hunt to Central Texas for opening day.
For the second year, Tyler Paper Outdoors and texasalloutdoors.com will be hosting a season-opening two day hunt in the Coleman area. It is actually a two-day hunt with hunters arriving at the ranch for supper on Aug. 31, and then hunting the next two mornings. Lodging, a brunch after the morning hunt and supper the first night will be provided. Cost of the hunt is $450 per person.
Long-time outfitter and local rancher Dusty Greaves will again be hosting, which means hunters better have their track shoes on and gas tanks full. Greaves leases a lot of country for hunts, and depending on where the best concentrations are located, hunters may hunt within a mile of the ranch headquarters or as much as 60 miles away.
Dove numbers have been good in recent years in Central Texas, and with a mild, wet spring they should be high again come September. Some portions of the region are getting significant rainfall this spring. Others are at least getting average rains.
Shaun Oldenburger, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s dove program leader, explained that mourning doves in Central Texas typically nest from February through October, with the peak coming from mid-May into early July.
The key to a good season is conditions like this year that allow the birds to renest multiple times.
“Re-nesting is extremely important for population growth in a mourning dove population since they are short-lived and have a determinant clutch size of 2 eggs per nest. Renesting efforts and their successes usually defines the age-ratio in the September harvest,” Oldenburger said.
While the unexpectedly wet spring is a good thing, it does bring concerns. Mourning doves are notoriously poor nest builders that can easily be lost if weather turns nasty.
“As always, rain is a good thing. However, I’m not so concerned with the rain, but the high winds that come with storms. Storms may cause extreme nest loss in a local area. In some areas, nest loss may be higher from these causes than predation. Nest survival may be around 30 to 35 percent from laying egg to fledging, so most nests do not see an egg hatch,” the biologist noted.
While Texas hunters typically enjoy great dove seasons, looking at the lifecycle of doves can make it easy to understand the importance of multiple hatches.
Oldenburger said annual survival rates for adult birds are just 50 percent. It is 40 percent for juveniles.
“Thus, the average dove has less than a 50:50 shot to make it to age 1. However, there’s a lot of variation in individuals, we call this heterogeneity in biological terms, so a smaller percentage makes it beyond this and breeds multiple seasons. Without these individuals, mourning dove populations would certainly decline,” he said.
Ongoing banding studies by the department have routinely found birds surviving four to six years.
While beneficial to wildlife, ranching and farming interests in the region, this year’s rains could make hunting a little harder. Hunters faced the same situation last fall and quickly realized that unlike the previous years when drought concentrated the dove the availability of food and water had them more scattered.
The result was instead of limits in the first 15 to 30 minutes of the morning, hunters had to stay out longer and possibly finish their last few birds in the afternoon. That is where a good outfitter spending time on the ground locating concentrations is important.
Depending on field location hunters may be hunting primarily mourning doves, a combination of mourning doves and white-winged doves or primarily white-winged doves. The daily bag limit is 15.
If there is interest, a second hunt may be organized later in the season.
To reserve a slot for the hunt, call 903-596-6277 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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