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
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
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
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
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!
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.