By Texas Parks and Wildlife Dept.
Judging by tweets from across the state received during the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Law Enforcement Division’s first virtual “ride-along” with a game warden, hunters enjoyed an A-minus mourning dove season opener.
“A lot of hunters were limiting out in the morning, and anyone who really wanted to got their limit Sunday if they hunted morning and evening,” reported Lt. Mike Mitchell, the division’s technology and special projects officer.
Mitchell spent Sunday riding with a game warden and reported their law enforcement activities real-time via Twitter. The wardens contacted scores of hunters, and Mitchell used a department smart phone to send 36 tweets, many accompanied by photographs and links to further information.
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While most of the bird hunters the wardens contacted Sunday were abiding by all applicable laws, Mitchell said he and his partner primarily saw three main violations.
Most prevalent was finding that a hunter had not taken a hunters education course, which is mandatory for anyone born after 1971. The second most common offense was not having a hunting license, followed by having more than the legal limit of 15 birds. (The possession limit was increased to 45 birds this year, but that only works on the third day of the season or later.)
Each of these violations is a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of from $25 to $500 plus court costs. Also, when resources are seized, the department can seek civil restitution for the value of any game confiscated.
“By far most of the hunters we contacted were in compliance and enjoying a great outdoor experience,” Mitchell said.
Texas had an estimated 393,975 dove hunters contributing $177,467,664 to retail sales, according to a 2006 Economic Benefits study by Southwick Associates.
The average dove hunter is 43.7 years old, and only 6.8 percent of the hunters are female, but Mitchell said he and the other warden were heartened to see several father-son and father-daughter hunters, and some shotgun-toting moms as well.
During the middle of the day, when most dove are keeping cool in trees or on electrical and telephone lines, the wardens spent some time on the water doing boater safety and fishing checks.
Not long after resuming patrol of dove hunting areas, Mitchell got a tweet from a hunter wanting to know when the evening flight began.The tweet came in at 3:14 p.m. so with tongue in cheek, Mitchell declared that the birds would begin flying at 3:15 p.m.
“No one knows when dove are going to fly,” he said, “but I did remind the hunter that legal shooting ended at sundown, and how to locate that official time.”