Hunters out in force as extended dove opportunity begins

BROWNSVILLE — Clark Williams drives down from Corpus Christi every year to hunt in Resaca de la Palma State Park’s 250 acres.

The retired dentist has been an outdoorsman all his life. His favorite game is deer, but he hunts dove, rabbit, turkey and goes fishing.

He was one of the first hunters out in the field Saturday afternoon, picking the right spot for when the birds come to roost.

“I think (the appeal) is just the experience. I caught my first deer at 14, and I remember when my dad took me out of school in fifth grade to go dove hunting,” Williams said.

Beau Johnson of Brownsville has been hunting for 15 years. Like Williams, he also was taken on trips by his father, and, eventually, he started to appreciate the sport.

There is nothing like sitting outside to enjoy the breeze and shade, Johnson said.

“It’s my time alone. You’re communicating with nature, and all your problems seem to go away. You don’t really have time to think about that out here,” he said.

Johnson may miss some shots, but it does not frustrate him. He sees the beginning of the season as the time to shake off the rust.

“Once you get your pattern, you get the hang of it real quickly. It’s like riding a bike. You don’t forget how to do that,” Johnson said.

And when hunters find their pattern, the payoff can be extremely rewarding. Johnson’s 80 doves last year fed the family throughout the season.

About 300 hunters show up to use the state park hunting grounds on the first weekend and 200 stick around every weekend after, said Pablo de Yturbe, park superintendent.

Before the season begins, the park staff takes the time to go out into the field and shred the grass so the hunters do not lose any birds or bullets.

The birds tend to fly out from the park to drink water and feed in the crop fields, and then head back to nest in the brush, making it an easy place to hunt, Yturbe said.

This season, hunters get 20 additional days to bag some birds; the extension is historic in that it has not happened in 80 years.

“Biologists monitoring the dove population see an increase in the population, so they determine the extent of the hunt and the number of birds you can bag,” Yturbe said.

Yturbe calls the sport a “Texas tradition,” but has noticed the number of young hunters declining during the past few seasons.

That is something Williams has observed, too, and he wishes more youth appreciated the sport.

“If we don’t get them to experience the outdoors, we’ll lose this tradition,” Williams said. “But when you do get them out here, they have a ball.”