By John Jefferson, Correspondent
I love the smell of August. The fragrance of morning dew on sun-dried grass says the seasons are changing. In a few days, dove season will kick off the start of new hunting seasons. So HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Dove season opened on Friday, September 1 in the North and Central Dove Zones. Hunters in the South Zone can hunt whitewings during the first two weekends of September (Sept. 2, 3, 9, 10) throughout the zone. Formerly, the special early white-winged dove season zone was much narrower, but whitewings have expanded.
Since it’s easy to make a mistake on fast-flying, darting doves, regulations allow hunters to include two mourning doves and two white-tipped doves in the bag limit. The smaller and slower-flying Inca doves and ground doves, though, are illegal. Let ‘em fly.
And be careful to not hunt close to a feeder. Baiting is illegal and costly. Friends once got ticketed by a warden for hunting in a flyway between roost trees and a deer and turkey feeder.
Hunters opening the season on land owned by a state official once made headlines by hunting near what seemed to be an intentionally baited area. Grain had been dumped in a pile. The state official claimed no knowledge of the baiting, wasn’t present, and wasn’t ticketed. The hunters were.
Wardens will be out in force, so follow the rules. An embarrassing incident involved men I knew. I was on a magazine assignment to write about the first female Texas game warden, and was riding with her during the early part of dove season one year. We checked a few hunters, and all were legal: nobody was over the 15-bird limit, all pump and automatic shotguns were plugged to hold no more than three shells, and everybody had a hunting license.
The warden received a call from a woman about bird shot falling on her roof, so we drove toward her house just before sunset, the end of legal shooting hours. We heard a shot and stopped nearby. The sound of an old pickup truck creaking along a rocky hillside got our attention. The warden, Stacy Bishop, pointed toward the sound. By that time, the sun was going down. The creaking of the old truck stopped and immediately we heard two shots. After a couple of minutes, the creaking resumed. The truck was coming right to the gate by which we had parked. The occupants were surprised to see the warden waiting for them — and equally surprised to see me. The warden warned them about shooting near houses, and then told them it was illegal to shoot doves from a motor vehicle. They sat in silence. She also told them it was probably past legal shooting hours when we heard their shots, but she wasn’t going to ticket them since they possibly couldn’t see the sunset. They nodded. Their embarrassment was obvious.
Traditionally it rains the last week of August, scattering the doves. And right now, it looks like rain. Better be prepared.