Dove hunter

A dove hunter on a fee-based hunt at Executive Outfitters near Brownwood. Dove season opens statewide on Sept. 1 and this promises to be an outstanding season.

August is the month when Texans begin to hear familiar and long-awaited popping sounds.

Football camps are opening, from the pro levels through college and down to high school, and the sound of pads popping brings energy and hope to players, coaches, and fans alike.

There’s also the crackle of gunfire in the air, as hunters prepare their weapons and sharpen their hand-eye coordination in advance of the opening of dove season on Sept. 1.

This year, the dove season will be again split into two parts – the first split closes in the Central Zone (separated from the North Zone by Interstates 20 and 30 to the north, and from the South Zone by US 90 and I-10 to the south) on Nov. 3. The second split opens Dec. 20 and runs through Jan. 14 of 2020.

Licenses for the outdoor year (Sept. 1 – Aug. 31) will go on sale on Aug. 15, and will be available at sporting goods stores and counters, bait shops, feed stores, hardware stores, via phone, and online.

The old days of waiting in long lines on opening day just to get a license are long gone, and TPWD has also made it easier for outdoorsmen to tailor their license packages to fit their individual needs.

The most comprehensive and economical license is the Super Combo, which costs $68 and includes all the required stamps and endorsements anglers and hunters will need except for the Federal Duck Stamp.

Every hunter born after Sept. 2, 1971 is required to complete a Hunter Education Training Course. These classes cost $10 and are widely available, including online.

Hunting grounds are getting harder and harder to come by, and the old days of heading out to Grandpa’s ranch to pop some doves out of the sky are more of a memory than an opportunity to most hunters.

That’s not to say there aren’t plenty of places to set up a stool and shoot off a box of shells, but increasingly, those places are fee-based. A quick Google search will help you find a place to get together with friends on opening day.

There are also other options, including a $48 Public Hunting Permit (on top of the hunting license fee) that opens up more than a million acres of access to both public lands and privately-owned property. A good number of acres are within an hour’s drive or so from Waco.

Opening day of dove season is a time for celebration. It’s the beginning of more time spent outdoors, rekindling friendships, and bringing home some delicious stuff to eat.

But hunting is also serious business. Unlike in fishing, there’s no catch-and-release. Hunting is for keeps, and the tools used are deadly if used correctly (or even incorrectly). Safety should be the top priority during a hunt so the rest of the fun can unfold. There are very few people I will hunt with because I don’t trust a lot of folks to properly handle a loaded weapon. I’ve been peppered by shotgun pellets more times than I want to remember, and have come too close to real trouble a handful of times more.

A first aid kit doesn’t take up much space and can be a big help if somebody gets a minor injury. Cuts, scrapes, stings, and snake bites can typically be dealt with using a well-supplied first aid kit. (If you’re bitten by a venomous snake, head to the emergency room.)

Speaking of snakes, opening week of the hunting season will mark the first time in months that anybody has been walking around in most area fields, and snakes have gotten used to being the ones in charge. Keep a keen eye out, and just because you see a snake – even a venomous one – doesn’t mean you need to kill it. Most snakes will move on with a little encouragement, and they do a lot more good keeping rats out of the corn fields than you might think.

Accentuating the positive

There’s a lot of trouble in the world today – enough to make you cancel your cable television and try to hide from the news.

But there are also a lot of signs of hope, and those are what we need to focus on. Two of those signs crossed on Saturday morning at Lake Waco, as the fishing group Fish On Texas! met up with a group of kids from Mentor Waco to do some fishing at Woodway Park.

One of Fish On’s main goals is to get kids involved in seeing fishing as a valid recreational option. They hold events, tournaments, and give-aways to kids to provide them with the time, gear, and experience to carry on the tradition on their own.

Jeremy Davis, who started Mentor Waco more than a year ago, has overlapping goals of directing kids to more positive choices and providing them the tools to become more successful academically, socially, and professionally. A lot of his students have been classified as being at risk of dropping out of school, getting into legal trouble, or worse, and he works with them both individually and as a group to put them on good paths.

If you want to support a group that’s promoting positive choices and actions to kids who a lot of people may have given up on, you can join the growing number of people and organizations putting energy into turning lives around. I personally know Davis and many of the students he serves, and I have seen the progress – and sometimes transformation – of attitudes and actions through their activities, service projects, personal mentoring, and community support.

Davis said special thanks to Fish On Texas!, Danny King, and Centex Hunting and Fishing for helping out with Saturday’s fishing trip.

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