How BHA Members Are Using Dove Season to Support the Texas Voluntary Public Access Program
Sitting in my chair overlooking an open area with my dad’s Browning A5 in my lap, I thought, “There is just something special about Texas dove hunting.” September 1st is the day that some Texans look forward to the most. Why? Well, it’s the start of something new; it’s the start of a new hunting season. It’s a time for friends to reunite, meet new people, and welcome the new hunters. There is more to the Texas dove season than just a hunt.
People drive from all over the state to head to their favorite dove spot and spend that opening weekend trying to shoot those little birds migrating south. My family hunts in the same place yearly with 20-30 other hunters from all over. There are husbands and wives, parents with their kids, and just good friends who come to hunt. We begin the morning with coffee and catching up before our safety meeting, and then it is time to head to our spots in the brush line lined with ryegrass and mesquite trees. We spend the morning hunting, and then everyone meets up, cleans their dove, and eats lunch. It’s as much a social event as it is a hunt. But, even hunts I go on with just a few friends are special.
Dove season allows for the initiation of new hunters. Andrew Ellis is a BHA member from Houston, Texas, and got to experience his first Texas dove hunt in the Abilene area. Ellis, a native Arkansan, said, “I understand the allure of it now. It was not just about the hunt. It was about family and friends coming together to inaugurate the fall season. It was like a party to kick off my favorite time of year.” Ellis also brought his 9-year-old daughter along to hunt with him. “Most hunts, for young kids, their involvement limits the capability of what you can do and runs the risk of being boring. She had a blast spotting and calling out the dove and was excited to retrieve the birds for us. I highly recommend a dove hunt as an introductory hunt for kids because they can actively engage in the hunting activity without touching a weapon”, Ellis said. The dove hunt is more than just trying to bag a limit; it is about community, family, and raising the next generation of Texas conservationists.
Texans may not know that there is a lot of available public land for dove hunting. Each year, landowners across the state participate in the Voluntary Public Access (VPA) program, leasing their land to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) so it can be opened for public hunting access for Texans. VPA leases can be found in all areas of the state, with many close to our largest cities. BHA member Zack Royal hunted opening weekend on a VPA Public Land Lease around Ft. Worth for his first time hunting dove. “I shot more shells than I’d like to admit, but the memories of dove opener were worth every shell. Texas public hunting land can still be special,” said Royal. The VPA properties are typically leased for dove season but may also be leased for other wild game, including waterfowl, upland birds, and other small game. More than 31,000 acres across 80 pieces of land are explicitly designated for public hunting on VPA land. You only need your TPWD Hunting License and the Annual Public Hunting Permit add-on to hunt the VPA leases. This makes dove season something special to have so much access and opportunity to hunt here in Texas. The Texas Chapter of BHA wants to celebrate dove season and public lands by helping care for the VPAs. This is why we have the Adopt an Access, where you can sign up to pick up trash, meet new hunters, share information about public lands and waters, and thank the landowner for participating in the VPA Program with TPWD. You can find more information on how to Adopt an Access here.
Dove season is steeped in traditions from having friends drive across the state to hunt to blowout after-hunt meals. However, what if we, as conservationists, make a new tradition of helping care for our public land dove hunting opportunities through Adopt an Access? It’s more than a hunt; it’s more than dove season; it’s an opportunity for us to be a part of the longevity and legacy of Texas dove hunting.