Texas hunters taking to fields to hunt dove Sept. 1 should find an average crop, and birds’ access to food and water will be a major factor in harvest success, according to Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service experts.
Dr. Maureen Frank, AgriLife Extension wildlife specialist, Uvalde, said dove adjust well to drought conditions because they can move to areas with more food and water, but that means hunter success will vary around the state due to conditions and food and water availability.
Dove are negatively impacted by drought much less than quail, which rely on insects and native forbs, she said. Agriculture crops such as sesame, sunflowers and sorghum are attractive food sources to dove.
“Dove populations are much more stable than quail because they utilize agricultural fields,” she said.
Dr. John Tomecek, AgriLife Extension wildlife specialist, Thrall, said bird populations were spotty in Texas due to drought.
Hunters with access to areas where the birds have food sources, water and roosts should have an advantage over areas without, he said. The loss of commodity crops due to drought allowed annual volunteer plants, including sunflowers, to emerge.
“Birds will be moving between food and water sources as they make their way south,” he said. “Food and water are in short supply in a lot of areas, so the places that do have these, and trees to roost in, should hold a lot of birds.”
Providing food sources for dove can improve hunter success, but it can also be illegal if state laws are not followed, Tomecek said.
In Texas, the official recommendations regarding “normal agricultural operation” are produced by AgriLife Extension, Tomecek said. Recommendations can be found here.
Broadcasting seed or grains before and during dove season in an attempt to attract birds is illegal, he said. But broadcasting in the normal act of planting winter forages is legal when standard practices of seed drilling, or broadcasting on prepared beds followed by light disking or dragging is incorporated.
When it comes to dove, farmers are allowed to grow seed- and grain-bearing crops such as sesame or sorghum for the sole purpose of attracting dove and can manipulate stands in any way throughout the season to provide a food source for birds, Tomecek said.
“The best way to explain it is that if you put seed or grain on the ground this time of year, it’s likely illegal,” he said. “If you planted it and it is maturing during hunting season, you can manipulate it in any way to hunt over it throughout the season.”