Texas Dove Hunting

The anxiously awaited opening day for Texas Dove Hunting Season has arrived.  It’s almost a right of passage here in Texas.  In fact, since they make Cinco de Mayo a school holiday, they should make Opening Day of Texas Dove Hunting Season a holiday as well – how else are we going to get our kids out hunting?  They dove hatch in Texas this year was tremendous – despite the drouth.  Generally speaking, we have two kinds of birds.  Whitewings, which used to roost in the Rio Grande Valley, have migrated and tend to concentrate in the large trees in towns in a band from Hondo in the West to Houston in the East.  This band of cities extends as far North as Austin as well.  These birds are here mostly year round.  The Mourning doves tend to be more migratory and a weather change can easily push them further South.

Sunflower Fields for Texas Dove Hunting

Dove Hunting in a Texas Sunflower Field
Sunflower Field for Doves

Sunflower fields are ideal places to hunt doves in Texas.  Many farmers and ranchers actually plant fields of sunflowers to either improve their own chances of hunting success or to provide some hunting lease income to an already starved agricultural income picture.  The doves tend to flock to seed fields early in the morning just as they come off the roost so a slightly shady spot near a tree line underneath their flight path is a great location for a Texas dove hunt.




Hot Dog Hunting Doves

Cooling Off the Texas Dove Retriever
Keeping The Dove Retriever Cool

Opening day is September 1.  It is still HOT in Texas and a dog can make all the difference when Texas dove hunting in a seed field.  I tried an experiment this year.  I purchased a kiddie/doggie bath and a 15 gallon water barrel for my truck.  When I arrive at the field, I use the water barrel to fill the doggie bath with a few inches of water to keep the dog cool.  The results were exceptional.  Her endurance and number of retrieves practically doubled!







Hunting Doves from Town

Hunting Texas Doves
Barren Ground in the Dove Flyway

If you can find the flight path, and a willing land owner, where the town birds – Whitewings usually – are returning to town in the evening from feeding in the seed fields, you’re going to have a consistently great hunt.  No matter the weather, those birds are going out to feed mid-day and they are going to have to return to town to roost.  Early season shoots will present you with low, fast shots and after the birds have wised up to your location, you’re going to be presented with some tall, towering shots at 40-60 yards.  If you find a location like this – keep it a secret!


Low Flying Flocks of Doves

Flock of Whitewing Doves in Texas
Texas Whitewing Doves

Early in the season, the doves haven’t wised up so you’re going to be presented with a lot of low flying flocks of doves to hunt.  Open your chokes and be careful of who’s hunting around you.  Enjoy the rock n roll aspect of Texas Dove Hunting!







Tall Birds

Evening Flight of Texas Whitewing Doves
Flock of Texas Doves

Later in the season, after they’ve wised up a bit, you will see the flocks spread out and get taller.  Tighten your choke, increase your load size and grab plenty of lead.  This kind of Texas dove hunting is my absolute favorite!







Evening Hunt at the Water Hole

Ponds Attract Texas Whitewing Doves
Hunting Doves Around a Pond

Doves need water to help them digest the seeds they eat.  They tend to spend morning and mid day feeding on loose seed in the fields.  In the evening, a water hole can be an amazing place to hunt as they drop by for a drink of water prior to returning to the roost.  It’s been a very dry year in Texas and water can be hard to find.  If and when you do find it, use your Mojo decoys and grab some good camo for some amazing low shots.  This type of Texas dove hunting is classic.  Just make sure that your hunting buddies are arranged properly around you and be careful when they go out to pick up their birds.


Ready to Hunt Doves

Hunting Doves in Texas
Dove Hunter and Retriever Ready for Doves

Good camo and a comfortable stool can make a big difference on your Texas dove hunt.  They seem to be slightly sensitive to lighter colors but they are very sensitive to movement.  They key is to be absolutely still as they come in – don’t shoot too quick.







Hunting Dog Alert

Ready to Retrieve Doves
Alert for Doves

My Brit is three years old this year and this is her third season.  She has really matured well.  It can be tough to watch all of the directions and around a water hole, the birds can, and will, come from almost any direction.  I noticed that she will alert me to birds when she sees them.  My alert is is that she stops panting.  When I hear that, I simply glance to see where she’s looking and there will almost always be a bird there.  Well, almost always.  She has a tendency to alert to dragon flies and any type of bird in general but that’s OK, better safe than sorry I think.  Hunting with a good dog has definitely changed my perspective on Texas dove hunting.



Water Retrieves

Texas Dove Hunting Water Retrieve
Water Retrieving a Texas Dove

If you’re going to hunt a water hole – a classic method of Texas dove hunting – then you have to be prepared to drop some birds in the water.  Don’t leave them there!  Either peel your britches, bring some waders or get a good dog.








Dry Water Holes

Cut Wheat Fields Attract Whitewing Doves in Texas
Hunting Doves in Cut Wheat Field

This was a new one for me this year.  We we Texas dove hunting on a dry water hole between town and an irrigated cotton field.  The morning hunt had the birds coming from town and stopping at the DRY water hole before continuing on to the cotton field.  The evening hunt had many of the birds stopping at the dry water hole when traveling from the cotton fields back into town.  It was DRY!  I can only guess that habit may be a very strong motivator in doves.




Tired Dog

Tired Dove Retriever
Tired Dove Hunting Dog

My dog and I were very excited about this year’s Texas  dove hunting.  I hunted my dog 8 hunts over 5 days on opening weekend and then four hunts over 3 days the next weekend.  On average, she pulled 30+ retrieves per hunt with some as high as 50.  No, those weren’t all my birds!  By the end of the second weekend, this dog was pooped!  That said, she never failed to answer the call to load in the truck or fetch a retrieve.  I tried something new this year from Elements Nutrition and I highly recommend it.  You can’t order it online.  You have to talk to Todd to understand how to use it and how to adapt your feeding procedures to get the most out of it.  If he doesn’t think you’ll use it right, he won’t sell it to you.  I highly recommend it!


Dove Hunting Limits

Two Limits after Hunting Dove in Texas
Two Limits of Texas Dove

I want  to say something about limits and how we measure the enjoyment of our hunts.  The daily limit for Texas dove hunting is 15 birds.  I’m always amazed when people report “how their hunt went” by the count of birds in their bag.  Sure, it’s nice to limit.  But a limit is also disappointing – to me anyway.  It means the hunt is over for the day.  I’ve come to understand that the true value of the hunt is the time I spend with friends, the great shots I made, the lessons I learned and the way my dog training pays off by her performance.  I’ve learned to respond to “how was your hunt?” by saying “plenty of birds and plenty of shots.”



The True Value of a Texas Dove Hunt

Texas Dove Hunt Sunset
One Reason we Hunt Dove in Texas

How many times do we neglect to take the time to watch a sunrise or sunset?  How often to we spend time with friends and neglect to ask the really interesting questions?  How often to we train our dogs but fail to revel in her performance in the field?  Too often I think.






Texas Dove Hunting Summary

Texas Dove Hunting is amazing – definitely worth waiting for.  The time spent with friends, the anticipation of birds and bag limits, the tricky shots that you do (or don’t) make, the performance of a well trained dog, the laughter and wonder of kids on their first hunt – all make it worth waiting for.  Texas dove hunting is not to be missed.




Texas Dove Bands

From Outdoor Wire:

To a waterfowl hunter, a duck band is a treasured find. Affixed to a duck call lanyard, these rare small metal rings become testaments of the hunter’s skill or luck and reinforce the conservation success story they represent. Not all bird bands are viewed as prizes, however. In fact, the ones affixed to the migratory game bird that gets the lion’s share of hunting attention in Texas are not being viewed at all. This summer, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Dept. has been trapping mourning doves and attaching tiny metal leg bands to them as part of a larger national effort coordinated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. White-winged doves are also being banded across the state and TPWD will be banding approximately 3,000 whitewings. Banding began June 1 and concludes Aug. 15.

As whitewings continue to expand across the state, keeping tabs on these dove populations is becoming increasingly important. Only three states are consistently banding white-winged dove, with the Texas banding program being the most comprehensive. Dove band recoveries are revealing extensive travel records and offer interesting insight into the ecology of this prominent migrant. For instance:

  • Most banded mourning doves in Texas do not survive to see a second year and extremely few live past three years of age. The oldest mourning dove ever recovered in Texas was 9 years old and the oldest mourner ever recovered was banded in Georgia and was a whopping 31 years old!
  • Mourning dove shot in Texas come from 21 states including Texas, with the most out-of-state banded birds coming from Kansas, Iowa, Oklahoma, and South Dakota. A few banded birds traveled all the way from Pennsylvania and Ohio.
  • The oldest white-winged dove ever recorded in Texas was 17 years old and the oldest whitewing ever recovered was banded in Arizona and was 21 years old!

White-winged doves banded in Texas have been recovered in four states including Texas, four countries, and one in international waters (oil rig). The farthest recovered white-winged dove banded in Texas originated in Hidalgo County and was recovered in Nicaragua, 1,242 miles from the original band site. For Texas, the implications of dove management are significant considering the Lone Star State boasts fall dove populations in excess of 40 million birds and its 300,000 dove hunters harvest about 6 million birds annually or roughly 30 percent of all doves taken in the United States. Dove hunting also has a major economic impact, contributing more than $300 million to the state economy. But, despite having more dove hunters than any other state and harvesting more birds than any other state, Texas has the lowest dove band recovery rate in the nation.

“I think most dove hunters aren’t aware of the banding effort,” said Corey Mason, TPWD’s dove program leader. “Unlike with ducks, hunters aren’t looking for bands and because dove bands are only about the size of a bead they don’t stand out.”

Size does not diminish the importance of these bands and the information they provide wildlife biologists. Data obtained from banding are used to estimate survival and harvest rates and population abundance. These estimates are then used in population and harvest models to determine hunting regulations. The complete 2003-2010 Dove Banding Summary is available for review online.



Texas Dove Hunting Opening Weekend

Texas dove hunting kicked off this weekend!

I visited the Big Honker Lodge in Knox City with some friends for the opening of the season.

It was the first long trip for my hunting dog.

Texas dove hunting was fair this opening weekend – mostly singles and doubles but very steady throughout the morning and evening over sunflowers.

Texas dove hunting requires an early start and a surprising amount of equipment!
Sunflower fields are a wonderful magnet for hunting dove in Texas.
Unfortunately, some of those sunflower fields also have a lot of stickers. My dog had to stop, put down the bird, clear a sticker and resume about every 5 yards.
The process just exhausted her…..

Hope any readers out there had a great opening weekend of Texas dove hunting as well!