AUSTIN (KXAN) — One of the most popular activities in Texas starts Saturday: dove hunting season.
Hurricane Harvey caused a significant drop in harvest numbers and kept many hunters away last year, but the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department expects this season to be closer to normal for this season.
“We get to celebrate two great Texas traditions in September, the start of high school football season and dove hunting,” Steve Lightfoot, spokesperson for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, said.
“Both of them have rich strong heritages in the state.”
The department says there are about 300,000 Texans who hunt doves in the state annually.
“We’ve got huge populations of birds in excess of 45 million,” Lightfoot said.
However, the ongoing drought statewide will likely have an impact.
“The conditions are kind of dry so that means that the birds are going to be concentrated in areas around water,” Lightfoot said.
Chris Bush, an employee at Solana Ranch Wildlife in Salado, said the sunflowers the birds love dried up from the drought.
“There’s still a lot of seed that’s in there,” Bush said. “We’re trying to broadcast those seeds everywhere.”
By doing so, it creates the natural environment that the birds are drawn to.
“Wherever there’s water and wherever there are sunflowers, there’s going to be dove,” he said.
Different companies are scheduled to come out to Solana Ranch starting this weekend for executive hunts, as well as Texans with memberships. There are five dove fields for members and a separate field for the executive hunts.
“The hunts that we do start at noon,” Bush said. “We try to rest the birds in the morning so they’re not pressured so much.”
Bush also put up signs in the dove fields to remind hunters to respect neighboring homes throughout the hunting season.
Marc Sosbee has hunted doves for six decades.
“This is like Christmas Eve,” he said. “That’s how I can explain it. I don’t care how old you are. In anticipation for what’s going to happen tomorrow, you’re excited.”
Sosbee says the sport is a family affair.
“It’s not about killing birds,” he said. “Of course, that’s fun – the action – but it’s about the time you’re out there. It’s a heritage. It’s in your family. Your kids grow up doing it. You grew up doing it. You pass it on.”
Dove hunting season begins this Saturday for the North and Central Zones. Hunters in the South Zone can hunt special white-winged doves this weekend and next weekend and their zone opens on Sept. 14.
You can find information about zones and regulations on the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department website.