Every August, hunters from all around pull out their camo, clean their shotguns and load up on shotgun shells in anticipation of opening day of dove season. In Texas, September 1 is practically a national holiday when many parents allow their kids to be late for or even miss school so they can enjoy the first hunt of the season. Texas is well-known for our dove hunting and we are pretty proud of it! There are numerous towns that claim to be the “dove capital” of Texas. What’s a dove capital without a dove fest?
Karnes City, Hondo, Uvalde, Winters and Hamilton and other places like Coleman and Pénitas all experience a rise in tourism the first weeks of September and they all have dove celebrations. As with each small town, each dove fest has its own unique characteristics.
In 1994 Karnes County was the 2nd poorest county in the state and farmers and ranchers wanted to lease property for hunting to bring in more revenue. Hunters were invited out to a pasture to shoot clays, enjoy some entertainment, drink beer, and meet the landowners. This was the beginning of what has become an annual event for the last 24 years. It has grown into a three-day fun filled event with something for everybody including a Youth Day, the Black Gold Shoot-Out, carnival, dance, kids camo contest and even a stick horse rodeo.
A trip to Winters is worth the drive to enjoy their clay pigeon shoot, or to ride in their Dove Dash bike race. There is such a strong sense of community that is felt there as everyone comes in together at noon and enjoys a delicious barbecue lunch under one roof. The volunteers are people of all ages who are involved in local clubs. Proceeds of the gun raffle, lunch and other events are all given back to youth and community organizations.
Hondo and the surrounding towns of Sabinal and D’Hanis are home to literally dozens of outfitters who scout all year long to put their clients on birds during dove season. This year the Hondo Chamber of Commerce is hosting Hunt Hondo at Paloma Pachanga. They will have a “cutest camo kid contest”, a gun raffle, “Rock Your camo 5K” and a “Parisa Pachanga”. TDHA will be hosting a DOVE 101 seminar as well.
Uvalde is another hunting mecca with yet dozens more outstanding outfitters. If you’ve never experienced waking up and going down for breakfast in a hotel in Uvalde on opening day, you’ve missed out. It is wall to wall camouflage! The Uvalde Convention and Visitors Bureau and Oasis Outback (just about the coolest store around) host their annual Uvalde Dove Expo with a gun raffle, vendors, food & drinks, and a kid fish. You’ll also want to check out the store that has something for everyone as well as a restaurant with lots of yummy items on the menu.
Hamilton is another town with huge personality. Their dove fest goes from sun up to sun down. They have a dove fest pageant, gospel singing, a 5K, a dove cookoff and more. Perhaps the most fun event though is the PBR qualifier rodeo and dance at the Circle T arena. If you plan to go to this dove festival you’ll want to make reservations at the beautiful Circle T Lodge right next door to the arena, but you’d better do it now, because they fill up fast. Did I forget to mention that throughout most of these dove events there is one more activity going on…dove hunting!
The small towns in Texas are what make our state so great. If you live in the city, take some time away from the hustle and bustle, load up your kids and take a drive to one of these towns. Spend the day at a dove celebration and see for yourself what they have to offer.