Dove and squirrel may be the two simplest and most affordable seasons for Texas hunters to participate.
For both, hunters need little more than a license, gun, ammunition and land with permission to hunt.
But the similarities stop there if for no other reason than dove are a migratory species.
Being a migratory bird brings in the federal government and with that comes additional regulations and restrictions in part because of a treaty with England, Mexico and Russia initially signed in 1916 that eventually became known at the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.
Because of that there can be no hunting of migratory species prior to Sept. 1, and thus the reason for the dove season opener in Texas.
Through the years the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has come up with other rules and regulation guidelines within the boundaries of the treaty. Each state has some leeway within those guidelines, but not as much as they would with squirrel or quail where the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department can set the season length for however long it wishes and bag limits as large or small as desired.
The migratory game bird guidelines have resulted in Texas’ two zones as well as the special white-winged dove zone in the Rio Grande Valley.
It also maximizes the daily bag limit at 15 as well as a three-day possession limit.
Most hunters know the main rules of the field like daily bag limits and plug restrictions, but there are other lesser know regulations that if not followed could result in a citation.
One of those is hunting while sitting on an ATV or even the tailgate or bed of a truck.
Ken Davis, TPWD’s Assistant Commander, Wildlife Law Administrator, explained that in Texas it is illegal to be sitting on any type of motor-driven vehicle unless the hunter is a paraplegic or a single or double leg amputee.
Hunters also know it is illegal to hunt in a field in which corn or grain has been put out to attract the birds. What they may not is that it is their responsibility to know whether the field has been baited or not.
“In this scenario, the person should inspect the field prior to hunting, notify the entire hunting party, and not engage in hunting when this is discovered. Fields that are baited are considered baited until 10 days after all bait has been removed,” Davis said.
Hunters are also required to know where their shots are going.
It is illegal to knowingly shoot a bird across a fence or to fire a shot that lands on a person’s property they don’t have permission to hunt.
Just like hunting adjacent to a roadway, this may require hunters to hunt with their back to the property line and hunt a 270 degree line of sight in front of them.
Additional rules dove hunters should remember as the season opens includes:
All hunters, regardless of age, need a hunting license.
Hunters 17 and over need a state migratory game bird endorsement to hunt dove.
Hunters are required to be HIP certified to hunt dove. This should be done when purchasing a license.
Hunters born on or after Sept. 2, 1971 are required to have completed a hunter education course or purchase a “Hunter Education Deferral” to hunt.
Those 17 and under who have not taken the course must be accompanied by an adult while dove hunting.
Shooting hours are from one-half hour before sunrise to sunset.