A mourning dove (Zenaida macroura). Photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
We are well into regular dove hunting season, and this can be a useful time to refresh your memory on the basics of attracting and hunting doves, and what practices are both legal and effective. Below we answered a few questions about doves in Texas:
Q: Of the eight dove species that are found in Texas, which are legal to hunt?
A: The mourning dove (Zenaida macroura), white-winged dove (Zenaida asiatica), and white-tipped dove (Leptotila verreauxi) are legal game birds and may be hunted during open seasons. The rock dove (Columba livia), also known as the feral or rock pigeon, is unprotected and therefore may be hunted year-round. The red-billed pigeon (Patagioenas flavirostris), inca dove (Columbina inca), ground dove (Columbina passerina), and band-tailed pigeon (Patagioenas fasciata) are each protected birds and may not be hunted.
Q: Can I hunt for doves over bait?
A: No, hunting for doves over baited areas is illegal. A baited area is defined as an area where salt, grain, or other fed is directly or indirectly placed, exposed, deposited, distributed, or scattered, that could serve as a lure or attraction for migratory game birds. Once the bait has been removed from an area, it cannot be hunted for at least 10 days. However, hunting over a field or food plot that has been manipulated by shredding, burning, or other mechanical means is legal for doves, but not waterfowl.
Q: What is the best management practice to attract doves to my property?
A: Shallow disking can help you create the early successional habitats containing grasses and forbs that doves prefer as food sources. One strip disking strategy may help you maximize the ideal habitat for attracting doves over a three-year period. In year one, strip disk an area 10-15 feet wide. In year two, disk an adjacent area with the same dimensions, and an additional strip in year three. By year four, it should be time to re-disk the original area of land due to plant growth.
Prickly Poppy (Argemone pleiacantha) can be an excellent seed-producer for doves. Photo by Dr. Jim Cathey.
Q: What are some important seed-producing plants for doves in Texas?
A: Important grasses for doves include switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) and other panicgrasses (Panicum spp.), plains bristlegrass (Setaria vulpiseta), and yellow Indiangrass (Sorghastrum nutans). Useful seed-producing forbs include annual sunflower (Helianthus annuus), doveweed (Croton setigerus), ragweed (Ambrosia spp.), snow-on-the-mountain (Euphorbia marginata), and prickly poppy (Argemone spp.). Doves can also benefit from woody plants like hackberry (Celtis spp.), sumac (Rhus spp.), bumelia (Bumelia lanuginosa), blackbrush (Coleogyne ramosissima), prickly ash (Zanthoxylum americanum), and wolfberry (Lycium berlandieri).
Deliberate management decisions about the vegetation on your land can effectively improve your habitat and attract doves for a better hunting season, but the questions discussed here are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to habitat management to benefit a specific species. To view more land management techniques that can help doves as well as other wildlife, visit our YouTube channel here.
Originally by Dr. Shawn Locke
Modified by Abigail Holmes, Texas A&M University WFSC ‘19