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1A Hunting in Texas Guide Service

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What Species are Legal for Dove Hunting in Texas?

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We are blessed to have five species of legal columbidae (doves and pigeons) available for dove hunting in Texas. They are, in order of relative abundance; mourning dove, white-winged dove (a.k.a. whitewing dove), rock dove (a.k.a. rock pigeon, feral pigeon), eurasian collared dove and white-tipped dove (a.k.a. white-fronted dove). Below are pictures and info on each. 
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mourning doves are legal for hunting in TexasScientific name, Zenaida macroura: the mourning dove is the most abundant dove in Texas, occurring border to border. The name, macroura means long-tailed. It is the easiest way to distinguish this dove from other Texas doves in flight. Although the numbers are showing a slow but steady decline, they often gather in BIG numbers anywhere that small seeds can be found on bare ground. The daily bag limit for dove hunting in Texas' central and south zones during the 2007-08 season was 12 mourning dove. Since the numbers are decreasing slightly, perhaps TPWD needs to make a slight adjustment to that limit. For now though, limits can be easy around a good Texas dove hunting field, or favorite afternoon watering hole.
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whitewings - legal for dove hunting in TexasScientific name, Zenaida asiatica: the white-winged dove, or whitewing dove, have recently increased their Texas numbers to about seven million birds. The birds like to nest in well leafed, shady trees, like those found in most yards, so most of these birds live inside city limits. Fortunately for dove hunting in Texas, a good proportion of these city birds fly out to surrounding areas to feed each day. San Antonio and it's suburbs host about 2 million birds annually. As you might imagine, the pass shooting can be phenomenal, and if you have the privilege to shoot on a feeding field, limits come almost too quickly (assuming you can hit what you shoot at). Currently (March 2008) the bag limit in my Texas dove hunting areas is 12 birds a day. I seriously believe TPWD could raise that limit up a bit without any damage to these beautiful birds overall numbers.
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A rock dove, or rock pigeon, or feral pigeon in TexasScientific name, Columba livia: the rock dove, or rock pigeon, or feral pigeon also tend to live primarily in cities, or around highway overpasses. They prefer to nest in rock crevices on cliff sides, which is closely duplicated by buildings and bridges. They also will fly out of the cities to surrounding agriculture. There is currently (March, 2008) no closed season and no limit on these big doves, so this dove hunting in Texas can be year around. We hunt them like we hunt geese, using a decoy spread and layout or hay bale blinds in feeding fields. These birds are smart compared to mourning doves and become a real challenge if hunted much at all, but several 50 bird hunts have been had. What a blast those days are! It's also a great way to warm up the shooting eye, and line out your retriever, just before the real dove hunting in Texas season gets under way. There are a lot of young birds in the flock at that time, which are easier to fool, and better to eat than the old red leg birds. Take plenty of water for you and the dog. August can be HOT in south Texas.
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eurasian collared dove - legal for dove hunting in texasScientific name, Streptopelia decaocto: the eurasian collared dove is another Texas dove that tends to be found around population centers, though it tends to be more drawn to smaller building clusters, like small towns, crossroad communities and subdivisions that are just a bit into the countryside. This accidental import is rapidly expanding in range and numbers. It is another Texas dove that currently (March 2008) has no closed hunting season and no bag limits imposed on it. I regularly get a bonus bird or two when dove hunting in Texas, because of this bird, but I don't see any big numbers shot. I believe this is because of their seeming intelligence. Even when I can find a pretty good concentration of these birds, they leave after just a few shots and don't return until the next day.
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white-tipped, or white-fronted dove in Texas.The white-tipped dove, or white-fronted dove is not real abundant in Texas. Usually found as singles, pairs or small family groups, it lives primarily near the Rio Grande Valley. It tends to hang out in brushy areas with open ground underneath, eating small to medium size seeds and sometimes insects. The daily bag limits for dove hunting in Texas on these birds has been just two for many years, and probably will remain at that level. They somewhat resemble the common mourning dove, but are larger and lack the distinctive spots on the wings. They are also considerably lighter colored on the breast, giving them one of their common names, the white-fronted dove. 1A Hunting in Texas does NOT book hunts for these doves.
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.NOT Legal When Dove Hunting in Texas
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Texas has other doves and pigeons living inside it's lines, but these are not legal for harvest during any dove hunting in Texas, so be careful. Learn how to identify the above legal doves in flight. Learn how to identify the not legal ones, too, and avoid shooting at them. If you have doubt, don't shoot. We present here a list of the species we know about, a short description of each and a few notes about where you may find them. As I get rights to use photos, take them myself, or find ones that are not copyright protected, I will update this page.
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Patagonias flavirostris or Red-billed pigeon; almost exclusively found in the Rio Grande Valley, and normally only during the Summer breeding period.  It is unlikely that you would accidentally shoot one of these in hunting season. Still, it pays to pay head at what it is you are throwing lead. They are really cool looking birds, about 12 to 13 inches overall length, with a wine colored body, neck and head. They are more brownish on the back, They have gray tails, belly and flight feathers on the wings. The bills are white, with only a slight band of red near the base. There eyes are also red. I could think of several descriptive names for these birds, but red-billed pigeon is not one I would have used.
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Columba fasciata or Band-tailed pigeon: found primarily in deep south Texas along the Rio Grande and some southern spots in the mountains of west Texas, this is the largest native columbidae in the state, averaging 14 to 15 inches in overall length. That's about as big as a well fed city pigeon. These birds are mostly gray, with a very light gray band across the distal portion of the tail, thus their name. They have a strikingly yellow bill and yellow feet. There is a distinctive white stripe high on the back of the neck, and a scaled looking patch of black and white on the nape. For being basically gray, they are pretty neat looking birds, IMHO. These are legal birds for hunting in some other states, but NOT in Texas.
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Scardafella inca or Inca dove; found all across the south two thirds of the state. They are a small, ground nesting dove, about 7 inches overall length, basically all brownish gray, with each feather tipped in a thin, darker band. This gives them a scaled appearance across most of their body, back and neck. They are rust red under the wings and this is pretty visible in flight. I've never seen a "flock" of these birds, but they may be in small family groups. You can often hear a clacking kind of noise when these birds take flight.
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Columbina passerina or Common ground dove: found all across the southern two thirds of the state.  They are also a small, ground nesting dove, about 7 to 8 inches in overall length. They are colored much like a mourning dove, even having some of the spots on the wings, but these dove have rust red underwings, a scaled appearance to the chest, and are lacking the iridescent colors of the mourning dove around the neck. Many a dove hunter has made the mistake of thinking these were just young or small mourning dove. Watch for the rusty underwings in flight and don't be the next game violation written up.
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Columbina tapacoti or ruddy ground dove; found in the southern one third of the state. Another small, ground nesting dove, no more than 7 inches in total length. Also similar in coloration to the mourning dove, but with a more ruddy overall look,thus the name. They also lack the iridescent coloration around the neck. Watch for and avoid that rust colored underwing of all Texas ground nesting, not legal, doves. Again, when in doubt, don't shoot.
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Geotrygon montana or Ruddy quail dove: extremely rare in Texas, no breeding pairs are known to exist. They are present only as a vagrant specie. Based solely on pictures I've seen. It is is a medium size dove, about 10 inches in overall length. They have a ruddy red back, face mask and wing feathers. The balance of their bodies are basically grayish tan to light brown in color. The males may exhibit some iridescence around the neck. The bill looks a little too big for their head, IMHO.
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