Texas Dove Hunters Association is kicking off a challenge this season to promote dove hunting by bird baggers of all ages, compile valuable research data, and give up to 300 wingshooters a chance to be a winner.

“We have been developing the Texas BB (Banded Bird) Challenge for some time as a way to promote our organization and the dove hunting industry while gathering valuable research information,” said Bobby Thornton, founder of the TDHA.

The challenge is modeled after the very successful Coastal Conservation Association State of Texas Angler Rodeo (STAR) tagged redfish contest, with an added bonus of being part of the first effort of its kind to compile information on Eurasian Collared Doves in Texas.

“As far as we know, there have been no extensive studies conducted on Eurasian doves anywhere in the country,” Thornton said.

The birds that first entered the United States in the 1980s and have rapidly spread across the South, including nearly all the counties in Texas, are considered an invasive species that can be hunted year round with no bag limit.

“Game birds like mourning doves and white-winged doves have been monitored for many years, but this is the first program specifically designed for Eurasians,” Thornton said.

TDHA trappers from all areas of the state are capturing, banding and releasing 300 Eurasian Collared Doves this year. The bands have been placed on the left leg of each bird.

Emblazoned in large letters on the band is the line: “Winner! Call 210-764-1189 or go to www.texasdovehunters.com.”

“The challenge will help gather data, and we hope it will encourage more and more hunters to get out in the field,” Thornton said, explaining that the harvest report to be completed on each of the bagged, banded birds is very similar to the data gathered as part of on-going research conducted on migratory game birds.

Both the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department have monitored mourning doves and white-winged doves for many years through programs such as banded birds in order to study migration habits, climate preferences, and survival and harvest rates to help determine hunting regulations.

Thornton said the Texas BB Challenge is designed to assist in the monitoring effort while fulfilling the TDHA mission of promoting strong family unity through hunting and youth programs and being committed to research, education and habitat conservation.

“One of the things we are emphasizing is that everyone who enters our contest and harvests a banded bird is a winner,” he said.

The entry fee for the contest is $20 for ages 14 and older, making the registered hunter who bags a banded bird eligible for a prize drawing including a Polaris Ranger UTV donated by Hoffpauir Outdoors of Goldthwaite, CZ-USA shotguns, Frio Ice Chests, Chippewa snake boots, and TDHA lifetime, 3-year and annual memberships. Youth aged 10 though 13 are free but must enter the contest in order to be eligible to win, should they harvest a banded bird.

There is also a First Flight high school division (14 years -18) featuring a prize of a $1,000 scholarship; a First Flight youth division (10 though 13 years old) with a prize of a guided dove hunt for two; and a Guide/Outfitter division with a prize of a guided trophy trout fishing trip for two on Baffin Bay.

Entry forms and a complete set of guidelines for the Texas BB Challenge are available on the TDHA website at www.texasdovehunters.com.

By Ralph Winningham