HARLINGEN — Despite the millions of dollars in property and crop damage caused by Hurricane Hanna, the extra rainfall dropped across the Valley may provide conditions for good late-season dove hunting.
“It’s hard to say exactly how regional dove populations are affected by hurricanes and other extreme weather events,” said Owen Fitzsimmons, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department dove program leader. “In this case, I anticipate minimal impacts to September hunting, but the extra rain could lead to better late-season habitat when food is often scarce. South Zone hunters should be ready for some potential late-season action.”
The South Zone dove season is split into three parts, with a special white-winged dove season tacked onto the beginning of the first segment, usually on the first two weekends in September.
After those two weekends pass, the first dove segment continues until the end of October and then a late season resumes for around a month in mid-December.
Many hunters usually skip the second segment due to the lack of birds, but the forecast this year could mean vastly improved bird numbers later this year and into January.
The late rains should produce a bumper crop of seeds, and that should keep doves within the region longer than they normally stay.
John Martinez is a guide and outfitter with access to property up and down the Valley.
With the opening weekend of the season just days away, he said things are progressing nicely despite the heavy rains from Hanna.
“It’s looking good as long as you stay away from the Elsa-Edcouch area,” he said. “They had so much water, a lot of the crops got drowned.”
“I have some places that I checked up along the river in the Santa Maria area,” he added. “Combes has got that awesome flight-way right now that goes into Harlingen. There was a lot of grain out there and they’re starting to eat the cotton seed, and people say, well they don’t eat cotton seed, but they’ll eat just about anything that’s available.”
Also available are sesame seed crops and sunflowers.
“I have a feeling by the time the special white-winged season opens up it’ll be dry,” Martinez said. “It’s going to be good. We’re going to have a good season.”
Martinez, who can be contacted at 956-832-9063, provides what most dove hunters would regard as a luxury package, three days and two nights of hunting for $685 with lodging included.
“I just booked a trip for guys from Louisiana yesterday, 14 guys for Sept. 19,” he said. “And on opening weekend, I have like 25 guys, and that’s it.”
Scott Thompson has about 4,000 acres of grain fields to hunt in Cameron County between Raymondville and Sebastian, and charges $100 per day or until a shooter limits out.
“Most years the birds there are real good,” said Thompson, who can be contacted at 830-660-3698.
“I live in North Texas and I haven’t even made a trip down there to scout, to be honest, this year, because of that hurricane we had, what, three weeks ago?” he added.
Thompson said most outdoorsmen and outdoorswomen who contact him from the Rio Grande Valley lately want to combine hunting and fishing in the Laguna Madre or offshore.
“A lot of people who do call me want to know if I offer a ‘cast and blast,’ where they can dove hunt in the evening and fish all morning, and I don’t do that, I just do the bird hunting,” he said, although he says he is considering partnering up next year with a fishing guide out of Port Mansfield.
Martinez said the lodging package he offers can be tailored to the needs of groups, and in a bow to COVID-19, he offers options.
“If they just want to come hunt on the special white-winged hunt, its $250 a week and they’re on their own,” he said. “I take them out and am there with them but they do their own hotel, their own food, everything. And that’s one thing we really push, because now with this virus, a lot of people don’t want to stay in a lodge or stay in a hotel.
“They want to stay on their own,” he added. “I’ve told everybody, ‘guys if you want to come hunt, $125 per day per person and you’re on your own, you do everything.’”
Texas makes up one-third of the overall mourning dove harvest in the United States. In addition, Texas makes up about one-third of the overall dove hunters in the United States. Throughout the state, there are three dove game species — mourning, white-winged and white-tipped doves.
2020-21 South Zone dove season
Sept. 5-6, 12-13: Special white-winged dove season
Sept. 14-Nov. 1: Regular season, first segment
Dec. 18-Jan. 23: Regular season, second segment