CONNIE SWINNEY • STAFF WRITER
CHEROKEE — Devin Everett likes to stay close to home during dove season and often welcomes family and friends on opening day Sept. 1 to his 1,400-acre ranch in San Saba County.
“I’ve been an avid bird hunter since I’ve been 5 years old. I don’t know if it’s genetic or what it is,” said Everett, whose property sits on Cherokee Creek. “We used to have a family reunion every Labor Day weekend. It’s almost like Christmas to us.”
Shooting dove became a tradition in his life the first time his father and uncle showed him how, he said.
“They gave me the gun, gave me the rules of the gun, how to aim and lead, and it just came natural after that,” he said. “If you’ve ever shot skeet or trap or sporting clays, there’s some competitive stuff about it when you’re out there with a bunch of friends.”
For the first time in 80 years, avid hunters such as Everett will get 20 more days in the dove season, which runs Sept. 1-Nov. 6. It overlaps this season with the first day of deer season in Central Texas. The Central Zone (for doves), which includes Burnet and Llano counties, also has a later season, Dec. 17-Jan. 8, 2017.
“It’s just a lot of fun because you get to shoot a lot,” Everett said.
Capt. Cody Hatfield, a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department game warden said the extended season provides more opportunities for hunting enthusiasts.
“It’s changing from water safety season to the beginning of the hunting season for the whole state,” Hatfield said. “(Dove season) is probably one of the longer seasons I’ve ever seen.
“It increases more hunter opportunities,” he added. “It allows more time to plan hunting trips and allows more time for birds to move in and out of the area.”
That also means more opportunities to feast on a favorite delicacy.
“You get something really good at the end when you get to eat the birds,” Everett said. “Doves are great with jalapeno, onion and bacon wrapped and put on the pit. That or fried.”
Hunters who are ready for day one typically clean, test and repair firearms a week before the start of the season.
Also, sportsman take that time to renew their state-issued hunting licenses, which expire Aug. 31.
At the same time, participants can renew the Harvest Information Program (HIP) certification and purchase a migratory bird stamp as well. The stamps ensure the hunter acknowledges and follows regulations, including the individual hunter 15-bird limit rule.
A typical license costs $25-$60 depending on the single sport or combination sport package, including fish as well as fowl and other animals.
FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THE COST OF HUNTING LICENSES HERE
Along with a licenses comes hunter education, which is required in some cases depending on age.
Hunters born on or after Sept. 21, 1971, must complete a hunter education training course, which costs $15. Those 17 years and older can take the class online.
SIGN UP FOR HUNTER EDUCATION HERE
Game wardens offered some precautions for first-time hunters as well as veterans.
“Dove hunting is a group sport with usually more than one person, so be mindful of where you’re shooting so you don’t pepper a person or property with bird shot,” Hatfield said.
Everett said he’s been on the wrong end of bird shot twice over the years and offered some common sense safety tips.
“A shotgun will shoot a lot farther than anybody thinks it will,” he said. “You’ve got to pay real close attention. Always wear sunshades and keep an eye out for your fellow hunter.”
Other dove hunting rules and precautions include:
• Avoid shooting across property lines without the owner’s consent.
• Check the plug in your shotgun to make sure it is a legal firearm.
• Determine the rules for lease or property size per county; expect a requirement of at least 15 acres.
• Apply for a hunting license online at tpwd.texas.gov.