Dusty Greaves’ dove hunters had a very good year in 2013.
“Last year was the best year I have ever had from start to finish,” the Coleman outfitter said.
He is expecting it to be even better for this season which opens Sept. 1 in the North and Central zones.
“I am seeing good bird numbers this year everywhere I go,” Greaves said during a break in scouting recently. “Last year was phenomenal. The fields that had birds in them had thousands, but I bet overall numbers are up considerably this year because they have had rain in the Panhandle and really all over the state.”
Texas Parks and Wildlife officials are predicting increased numbers of both mourning and white-winged doves. White-winged dove number could be up significantly by nature of their nesting within cities and small towns.
Under the right conditions mourning dove can nest as many as six times a year and whitewings up to three. With the mild weather and better rainfall statewide this is expected to be one of those years with multiple attempts.
For several weeks Greaves has been traveling the back roads from Coleman to Bangs to San Angelo to Abilene and has found plenty of native seed sources such as sunflower and dove weed (croton), but said most still need a time to ripen putting them right on schedule with opening day.
Greaves added that most farmers lost their summer wheat crop to late spring freezes, and the milo that is being grown is already being cut.
The roll of the dice for Greaves comes right before the season opener when farmers start shredding and plowing sunflower fields in preparation of planting them for winter wheat. A field that is full of birds one day can be empty the next when the birds discover another recently cut field.
“It makes a difference. You can go to a place where there are four or five sunflower fields and you have to wait and see what shows up after one gets plowed up,” Greaves said.
One big change facing most hunters this year is the return of surface water. Because of drought conditions a lot of field ponds have been dry for several years. Although the birds have always found water sources, hunters have had trouble locating ponds for hunting. This year the number of ponds with water could scatter the birds out some.
With the bird numbers expected to be good hunters need to be prepared to make sure their hunts go off without a problem. That starts at home and should begin with the shotgun and making certain it is cleaned and ready to go. There were a lot of guns put up dirty last year or weren’t working properly and were forgotten about during the offseason.
Having a backup gun ready to go is always a good idea especially for extended hunts.
Another pre-emptive measure is too make sure you have enough ammo. How much? Is there such a thing as too much?
Do the math. The limit is 15 per day and hunters can now keep up to three day’s limits, or 45 birds. Average shooters require five to seven shots per bird or 225 to 315 shot over a three day period. A 10-box case holds 250 shells. The worst that can happen is that you have some left over for another hunt.
Hunters should remember their license. It is having the mandatory state migratory game bird stamp that often gets them in trouble. The stamp is included with the Super Combo license, but is a $7 add-on with a regular hunting license.
Not having the stamp, which is also required for waterfowl hunting, is among the top five violations cited by Texas game wardens each September. Not having a hunter education certificate is another common violation. Hunters 17 and older must have passed a hunter ed class to hunt or possess a one-year, $10 course deferral.
For the curious, the other three most common violatoins are not having a valid license, having more birds than legal allowed and hunting with an unplugged shotgun, an odd violation since there really isn’t a reason to take a plug out once it has been installed.
Hunters need to remember that beyond the daily bag limit of 15, hunters may have up to 45 birds in their possession away from their home. To reach that number, however, requires three days of hunting and a maximum limit each day.
Another necessity for the field that could use early attention is game bags. Look for lost buttons or holes that could result in lost ammo.
Beyond that there is the regular list of bug spray, water for dogs, hunters and cleaning birds, a bucket to clean birds in, trash sacks to haul feathers and guts out of the field and gallon plastic freezer bags to pack birds and a Sharpie to mark bags with a hunter’s name, license number and when the birds were taken.
This is very likely to be one of those years that hunters remember. Follow the advice of the Boy Scouts and be prepared.
Have a comment or opinion on this? Email Steve Knight at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow him on Facebook at TylerPaper Outdoors and on Twitter @tyleroutdoor.