Texas dove hunting is a highly anticipated event amongst hunters in the Lone Star State. Come September, hunters load up their trucks with shotguns and stools and head to the fields for an exciting weekend of hunting. Anyone who knows about dove hunting in Texas knows that there are many regulations that you must follow if you’re going to participate in the fun, but they can be somewhat confusing.
If you’re new to dove hunting and are not familiar with how the regulations work, here is a comprehensive list of the regulations for Texas dove season, from bag limits to hunting zones. If you go out with a guide, they'll make sure you're following the law (and having a damn good time).
The most common species of game bird in the dove family are the mourning dove. They can be found all across the state and will most likely make up the majority of your haul. Mourning dove are a brownish-tan color with black dots on their wings and a longer pointed tail.
White wing dove are the second most common game bird in the dove family but are mostly only found in South Texas. These birds are slightly larger than mourning dove with round tails but are easily identified by the white stripe of feathers on the front side of their wings.
The third dove species designated as a game bird is the white-tipped or white-fronted dove. These birds look similar to the white wings without the white feathers on the wings.
During the regular dove season you are allowed a bag limit of 15 of these game birds per day with no more than 2 white-tipped dove and a possession limit of three times the daily limit.
There are also unprotected species of dove in Texas. These unprotected species have no daily bag limit, no possession limit, and no closed season so you are free to shoot as many as you like whenever you like.
The two unprotected species are the eurasian dove and the rock dove or rock pigeon. Eurasian dove are larger and lighter colored with a squared tail and white underside. Their most identifying feature is the black collar that goes around the backs of their necks. Rock pigeons are easily identifiable by their dark complexion, they look just like any pigeon you would see in the city.
Protected species of dove also exist in Texas, and these birds are off limits all times of the year.
The banded tail pigeon is the first of the protected species, they have yellow beaks with a white collar around the back of their necks with a dark bit of feather just underneath the collar. They also have a red ring of flesh around their eyes and pinkish-tan bellies.
The inca dove is also protected under Texas law, but they are easily identifiable. They are much smaller than the game birds, and their feathers give off almost a scaly appearance.
The common ground dove is the third protected species of dove, and similar to the inca dove, is easily identifiable by its small size. They also have brown spots on their wings and spotted feather pattern on their breast and head.
The dove season regulations in Texas are divided by hunting zones. This is important to understand because the seasons vary slightly between zones, and depending on where you’re hunting, opening weekend could be different.
The north zone is a portion of the state that runs from the northern Texas border, down to its boundary that looks like a somewhat squiggly diagonal line running from Fort Hancock to the west, up to the Texas-Arkansas state line to the east.
This southern boundary or "bottom" of the north dove hunting zone is comprised of three highways: I-30 from Texarkana to Fort Worth, I-20 from Fort Worth to Kent, and I-10 from Kent to Fort Hancock. Anything north of these boundaries is considered the north zone.
The central zone begins on the south side of the boundaries above and continues south to another set of boundaries. From Orange through Houston and all the way to San Antonio, I-10 is the southern boundary for the central zone. In San Antonio, however, the boundary follows State Loop 1604 until it runs into US Highway 90. From San Antonio to Del Rio, US 90 is the boundary.
The south zone is everything from the bottom of the central boundary to the southern Texas border.
The 2022-2023 season for the north zone runs from September 1st to November 13, and picks back up on December 17th until January 1st.
Central zone also begins on September 1st and is open until October 30th. It begins again on December 17th, continuing through January 15th.
The south zone dove season opens on September 14th and ends October 30th. It re-opens on December 17th and continues through January 22nd.
For all three zones, the daily bag limit is 15 birds, with a daily aggregate of no more than two white-tipped and a possession limit of three times the daily bag limit.
There is also a special white-wing only season in the south zone at the beginning of September. It's open on September 2nd through the 4th, and again on September 9th through the 11th.
In this south zone special white wing season, you’re allowed a bag limit of 15 birds with no more than 2 mourning dove and 2 white-tipped, with a possession limit of three times the daily limit.
Legal shooting hours for hunting in Texas begin one half hour before sunrise and go until sunset, so be sure to know what time the sun officially rises and sets when you go hunting.
To hunt dove in Texas, you also are required to have a Texas hunting license for that specific season. This includes having your migratory bird stamp as well.
Another thing to note is to make sure you report all banded birds you shoot to Texas Parks and Wildlife. This helps them fulfill the purpose of banding birds and should be done whenever you kill any species of banded birds.
If you need more clarification on which counties fall into which zone or details pertaining to any of the other regulations in place, refer to Texas Parks and Wildlife.
For those just starting out, booking a guide is a great way to fast track your knowledge, ensure you're following the law, and also get in on the action. Check out our Damn Good dove hunting guides here.
Updated on January 17, 2023
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