Breeding numbers of both Mourning Doves and White-winged Doves were up throughout the state this year. Good rainfall during the spring came at the right time for doves in many areas of the state leading to an abundance of young birds. Regardless of what happened back in the spring, we are now high and dry! That said, focus your Mourning Dove hunting efforts this year around water sources. Mourning Doves are also likely to be flocking into any remaining fields of sunflowers and dove weed along with harvested crops this year, as natural food sources are going to be limited. Properties located within a few miles of the major towns in Karnes County should also see good White-winged Dove hunting this year as birds fly into and out of town to feed and roost. Do not forget about dove hunting during the second split, as the arrival of migrating doves with the winter’s cold fronts will likely provide excellent second-split hunting opportunities. Thanks to increased dove numbers, the US Fish and Wildlife Service increased the possession limit on doves from twice the daily bag limit to three times the daily bag limit effective this season. You may have also noticed that the Special White-winged Dove Zone was expanded east to Interstate 37; however, this change will NOT apply to Karnes County.
Deer hunters in Karnes County fared very well last year, as trophy buck harvest during the 2012-2013 season appeared to be higher than any season in recent memory for Karnes County. Good habitat conditions along with impacts of the antler restriction were likely to thank for this excellent season. Along with quality bucks, good conditions also led to high production and high deer survival setting Karnes County hunters up with high deer numbers for the 2013-2014 season. Good rainfall for a short time this past spring was both preceded and followed by drought, leading to overall poor habitat conditions for deer this year. That said, there will certainly still be a few trophy bucks out there but it is unlikely that we will see a repeat of last season in regards to buck harvest. Dry conditions presently will likely lead to more deer movement and heavier use of feeders making deer more visible and increasing harvest opportunities overall. Oil and gas development are likely to continue influencing deer movements throughout most of the county. Plan to spend a little extra time in the field this year if you are looking for that trophy buck, however!
Hunters often don’t think of Karnes County as a major waterfowl hunting destination. However, even small ponds can provide good hunting opportunities in the right year...oh…and this is probably the “right year!” Overall waterfowl production was up in most species from the long term average this year; however, the increases were not quite as sharp as those observed in 2012. Due to drought, water levels in many marshes and rice fields along the coast where the majority of waterfowl overwinter are less expansive this year than they have been in the past. Lack of this winter habitat is going to force waterfowl to look for new areas to spend the season. Often, this can result in inland and relatively heavy waterfowl use of ponds, rivers, and wetlands even in Karnes County. Scout your waters early in the season to see if there is good potential for waterfowl hunting on your property.
Northern bobwhite (quail) numbers have experienced sharp declines in recent decades largely due to lack of sufficient habitat. However, much like our doves, rainfall and better habitat conditions came at the right time for our quail this year. Remember all of the insects this spring! Many area ranches are reporting more quail this year than they have seen in recent memory. Lack of seed production due to recent drought however may lead to a decline in quail numbers before the season, but there may still be the opportunity for a few hunts this year. In the long-term, we will need 2-3 more good years for quail production, along with more quail-focused habitat management, before we are likely to see the trends in quail numbers reverse in Karnes County.
Turkey production has been up the past few years leading to turkeys appearing in parts of Karnes County where they have not been seen recently. Look for good fall season hunting opportunities where turkeys feed within a few miles of roosts, generally along creeks or river bottoms. Don’t forget about the spring turkey season either, as high bird numbers should provide excellent gobbler hunts and good turkey calling opportunities. Focus on the upland areas where turkeys breed during the spring.
Small Game, Legal Non-Game, and Fur-Bearing Animals
Small game includes squirrels, Legal Non-Game includes rabbits, coyotes, and bobcats and Fur-Bearing Animals include foxes, raccoons, and badgers. See the TPWD Outdoor Animal for a complete list. Numbers of these animals are holding stable in Karnes County and can provide a non-mainstream hunting opportunity for those who are interested.
Wildlife Biologist – Wilson and Karnes Counties
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department