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Biologist talks bird hunting in the Wilson County area
With dove season upon us, and the other hunting seasons right around the corner, Texas Parks and Wildlife Biologist Ryan Darr offers his outlook for the 2012-13 seasons. This is the first of three such articles.
White-winged dove and mourning dove populations in Wilson County have benefited from good spring rainfall and seed production over the past three years, including 2012. The area also continues to see a large influx of exotic Eurasian collared-doves.
Hunters can expect large numbers of birds available for the 2012-13 hunting season. However, these birds are likely to be well-dispersed across the landscape given an abundance of natural seed sources and successful production of commercial grain crops this year. Harvesting a limit of birds may therefore be more difficult.
Focus hunting efforts during the first split of dove season on fields of native forbs (weeds), especially those with a pond nearby. Fallow crop fields or recently harvested crop fields can also provide a great hunting opportunity for those with access. By the second split of the season, hunters should focus their efforts on native fields. Remnants from most harvested crop fields are generally consumed by the second split, and doves often return to native habitats seeking the remaining food sources. The influx of migratory mourning doves moving to and through the area to wintering grounds can also increase hunting opportunities during the second split.
The tone for the waterfowl hunting season in Wilson County is set on waterfowl breeding grounds thousands of miles away, starting in the north central United States and continuing well into central Canada. Fortunately for duck and goose hunters, the tone set on the breeding grounds this year is very harmonious, to say the least!
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service surveys in 2012 estimated that duck population this year rose an exceptional 43 percent above the long-term average. Area hunters should expect to see more waterfowl in South Texas this year; however, these large numbers of birds are likely to be more dispersed across the landscape than what was seen during the past few years.
Heavy rains early this spring and the forecast rains for fall and winter 2012 helped to return water to ponds and lakes across the counties and to wetlands across South and Central Texas. Hunters should plan to scout potential hunting areas before the start of the season to pinpoint wetlands hosting wintering waterfowl this year.
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