Dove hunting is a big deal in Texas. And not just because it is the first domino to fall in a long line of hallowed hunting seasons that pretty much define autumn and winter for hundreds of thousands of men, women and children around this sprawling state. Even in a bad year, Texas dove hunting can be outstanding. One of the main reasons why is numbers. Staggering numbers.
Wildlife experts estimate Texas has a resident mourning dove breeding population of about 50 million birds. That is significantly more than any other state and about 18 percent of the nation’s total mourning dove population of 275 million. The numbers climb even higher when figuring in the millions of migrant mourning doves from northern states that pass through Texas each fall, and a rapidly expanding white-winged dove population that has exploded to well over 10 million over the last 10-15 years.
Texas hunters shoot a lot of birds, too. During a good year, the number of doves harvested around here might shock you. Last season was great one. According to harvest figures from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Texas’ 300,000 dove hunters shot more than 5 1/2 million mourning doves and nearly 2 million white-winged doves during the 2015-16 season. The banner harvest, up significantly from 2016, came largely as the result of optimum nesting conditions that put big numbers of young birds in the field ahead of the 2017 season opener.