WOODS, WINGS & WATER: It's your choice this Labor Day Weekend
Labor Day Weekend is the last summer holiday of the year while also serving as the shotgun start of the fall hunting season.
Opening day of dove season is somewhat of a holiday itself, and most of the quarter-million dove hunters in Texas will don short-sleeved camo T-shirts, a bucket and at least two boxes of their favorite light game loads.
Shaun Oldenburger, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's Dove Program leader, said in a press release that hunters can expect to see an increase from last year in dove numbers.
"It appears that breeding dove numbers have increased from last year in many regions of the state," he said. "It should be a good season."
Since most of Texas continues to suffer from severe drought conditions, watering holes - if you can find a wet one - should be prime locales. Nevertheless, corn, milo, sunflowers, goatweed and plowed ground always holds plenty of gray feathers.
"Dove numbers look really good," said guide Robert Trotti. "It may be the best I have seen in years."
Trotti runs hunts along the outside stretches of San Antonio, Medina County, Lytle and Devine. San Antonio's resident white-wing population roosts in the scrub oak trees throughout the city and head to the agricultural fields at daylight.
"For the last two decades, white-winged dove populations have steadily expanded both their numbers and their geographical extent," said Dave Morrison of TPWD in a press release.
That expansion to central regions of Texas has been significantly noticed in mourning dove-rich areas like Sealy, Columbus and El Campo.
"More landowners are planting crops for the birds, including sunflowers, which has put places like El Campo on the map," said guide Daniel Kubecka of Run-N-Gun Adventures. "The whitewing population there is incredible, and hunting is fantastic."
Kubecka said El Campo's close proximity to Houston and Austin has many shotgunners remaining closer to home.
"Why would you drive three to four hours to South Texas when you can enjoy just as good or better shoots about an hour from town?"
Dove season in the North and Central zones will run concurrent from Sept. 1-Oct. 23 and Dec. 20-Jan. 5. The South Zone dove season is set for Sept. 20-Oct. 27 and Dec. 20-Jan. 20, with the regular season in the Special White-winged Dove Area Sept. 20-Oct. 23 and Dec. 20-Jan. 20.
If you are not quite ready to trade in your fishing rod for a shotgun, solid fishing prospects abound for the holiday weekend. Fresh tides have pushed "new" water to the bays, and the fish have responded.
"We have been catching some really nice trout on topwaters," said guide Lynn Smith, of Port O'Connor. "There have been some heavy trout on the flats around Pass Cavallo."
Smith said tarpon have also been showing around the jetty and the pass.
Guide James Plaag in Galveston said his boats have had tarpon to 140 pounds recently while calm, mild weather has afforded a good bite for trout on topwaters.
"We finally got some good weather and are able to stay on the fish," he said. "The weather should only get better."
Bink Grimes is a freelance writer, photographer, author and licensed captain (firstname.lastname@example.org).