Dove Season In Georgia
October 04, 2010
Now's the time to start planning your opening day dove shoot. If you need a place to hunt, these public fields just might fill the bill! (September 2009)
The author and his hunting buddy, Rip, scan the horizon for incoming doves.
Photo courtesy of Ronnie Garrison.
"Behind you, over the trees!" I yelled. Then when seven heads within earshot swiveled and scanned the trees behind them, I realized I needed to be a little more specific.
"Uncle Adron, behind you, over the trees," is what that taught me to say.
I was on my first dove hunt in a blind by myself and was about 12 years old. After many days in the blind with Daddy over several seasons, acting as a retriever, and then a season in the blind with him while holding my .410, I finally was allowed in a blind alone. Boy, did I feel grown-up and I was trying real hard to do like Daddy taught me.
That dove shoot was on my Uncle J.D.'s field behind his house in McDuffie County. Back in the 1960s, almost all dove shooting was on family or friends' fields and you always knew everyone in the blinds around you. That has changed a lot over the years and now, unless you pay to have a field or go to a pay shoot, your opportunities are limited.
Fortunately, most of Georgia's wildlife management areas allow dove hunting all around the state. Many have managed fields that produce good dove shooting, while others are open for dove shooting over habitat where you might find doves.
Many WMAs even have youth/ adult hunts, an excellent opportunity to take your kids to a dove shoot. They offer fast action, and younger hunters usually love dove shoots. A WMA hunt won't be exactly like hunts of my youth where everyone on the field was a relative, but with the youth/adult hunts, everyone on the field will understand the importance of taking young people hunting. This is likely to make it a better experience for the younger hunters.
What makes a good dove field? Georgia Wildlife Resources Division wildlife biologist Don McGowan works in Region 3, but specializes in dove management and is coordinating statewide dove banding and wing studies. And he loves to shoot at doves. He shared some of his thoughts on what makes a good dove field and how to select a spot to shoot.
You need a minimum of five acres to have a good dove field, and hilltop or hillside fields seem better than bottomland for some reason. A nearby water source helps as does perching places like power lines and dead trees.
But the key is the food sources.
"Seed available for an extended time is the main key to a good dove field," McGowan said.
Managers try to plant a variety of crops at different times on the WMA fields so the forage is present as many months as possible. This keeps seed on the ground over a long period to attract and hold doves. You should plan your field like this rather than waiting until the last minute to plant.
It takes planning and work to make a good field. Some WMA managers place a higher priority on dove fields and spend more time making sure they have good ones. If you plan on hunting a WMA dove field, past history of dove shoots on the areas can help you choose one.
Once you pick a WMA to hunt, how do you decide where to place your blind on the field? Many WMAs have open hunts where anybody can shoot on any open day, while others have quota hunts to keep fields from being overcrowded. Make sure of the regulations on the area you want to hunt and check the deadline for quota hunts.
"Dove flying patterns are random from field to field," McGowan noted.
The only way to find where doves fly on a particular field is to scout it. Spend some time before the season watching the field. Locate corridors where doves enter the field. It might be overhead trees, a dip in the tree line or something only the doves can see, but if you watch you will pick up patterns.
There are no assigned blinds on WMA dove fields, so arrive early to get your chosen spot. McGowan said hunters are very good on management hunts about spacing themselves in blinds at safe distances and they seldom have problems, but be respectful of those arriving before you. It is first-come, first-served in picking out a spot for a blind.
When you find the spot where doves enter the field, set up your blind far enough from the tree line that you can spot a dove and have time to shoot it. Someone in the middle of the field is not as likely to let you know about incoming doves as we used to do when it was all in the family. After all, if you shoot it the dove can't make it within their shooting range!
Doves are the most popular game bird in Georgia, as well as the nation. One of the following WMAs offering dove shooting should be near you and provide you an opportunity to get in on the action. Check them out, find the dove patterns and plan on being there on open days.
Region 1 Wildlife Supervisor Chuck Waters said this year should be about like last year, with good shooting at J.L. Lester and Pine Log WMAs. Other areas in this region will be fair. Farming in this region helps hold doves, but not as well as the bigger farms farther south.
Allatoona WMA is open for dove hunting, but does not have a planted dove field. The clearings on the Bird Dog Training Area at Proctor Bend, however, offer some habitat that attracts doves. It is six miles east of Cartersville.
Berry College WMA has a 30-acre field planted with a variety of kinds of millet and wheat. It has some open days for shooting during all dove seasons. The area is north of Rome.
Crockford/Pigeon Mountain WMA has a big 70-acre field planted in millet and wheat. It is open three days during the first season, several during the second season and many of the days in the last season. It is about six miles west of Lafayette.
J.L. Lester WMA offers adult/ child hunts on its 16-acre browntop millet field. The field is south of Cedartown.
McGraw Ford WMA has a seven-acre wheat field that is open most of all three seasons. The field is near Ballground.
Pine Log WMA holds a 22-acre millet and wheat field and is open many days all three seasons. It is north of Cartersville.
Wildlife manager Scott Frazier in Region II said Dawson
Forest WMA should have good shooting like in years past, but others will be fair to poor. That is despite starting early in the spring with pre-burns to improve all their fields.
Dawson Forest WMA has a 12-acre millet field and is open some days during all three seasons. It is six miles west of Dawsonville.
Hart County WMA has a field covering 10 acres. It is planted in browntop millet and open three days the first season, about 10 the second and much of the third. The field is south of Hartwell.
Wilson Shoals WMA has a 17-acre millet field that hosts an adult/child quota hunt opening day. After that the area is open selected days the rest of the seasons. It is north of Gainesville.
Don McGowan, wildlife biologist in Region III, said they are working hard to make sure Alexander WMA, McDuffie PFA and Oconee WMA are in as good shape as in past years. Hopefully, that also translates in good shooting as in those seasons.
They are trying to improve fields on other areas since dove shooting is so popular in this region. There are more quota hunts than last year and Broad River will have an adult/child hunt this year.
Alexander WMA usually has non-quota hunts with about three days open in the first season, but then is open most days in the second and third seasons. There is a 30-acre dove field planted with browntop millet and wheat. The area is six miles east of Waynesboro.
Broad River WMA has a 12-acre wheat field and is open during parts of each season. It is about 18 miles southeast of Elberton.
Clarks Hill WMA offers a 22-acre wheat field open a few days in the first two seasons, but most of the third season. It is 12 miles north of Thomson.
Di-Lane WMA has several fields totaling 110 acres. Those are planted in millet, wheat and sunflower. Check to make sure which fields are open. It is 10 miles south of Waynesboro.
Hiltonia WMA provides a 15-acre wheat field, open some days during all three seasons. The field is about four miles west of Hiltonia.
Mead Farm WMA has no planted dove fields, but is open for dove hunting. The area is north of Waynesboro and is open selected days during all three seasons.
Oconee WMA's 16-acre wheat field has a quota hunt on opening day. It is then open on a limited number of days the rest of the first season and most of the last season. It is south of Greensboro.
Redlands WMA is located on Oconee National Forest land and has an adult/child quota hunt on opening day. It is then available to all hunters on selected days the rest of the seasons. A 92-acre wheat and sunflower field is found on the property. The tract is north of Greensboro.
The Walton Public Dove Field has a 45-acre wheat, sunflower and millet field that has an adult/child quota hunt opening day. After that it opens general hunts on selected days the rest of the seasons. The field is at the Wildlife Resources Division Headquarters near I-20 at Social Circle.
Yuchi WMA has a designated 15-acre field open for dove shooting on selected days during all three seasons. The area is eight miles east of Waynesboro.
The McDuffie Public Fishing Area near Thomson has a 12-acre wheat field open for dove hunting.
In Region IV, wildlife biologist Bobby Bond pointed to Cedar Creek and Joe Kurz WMAs as tracts that should be as good as last year with others fair to poor.
For some reason last year Rum Creek WMA had an unusually poor season. He expects it to recover this year.
Clybel, Rum Creek and Blanton Creek WMAs host quota hunts.
Dove shoots are very popular in this region, so managers are working to improve shooting on all their areas.
Blanton Creek WMA dove field covers just more than 30 acres of browntop millet and has a quota hunt on opening day. The other hunting days during the seasons are open hunts. The field is 10 miles south of the city of West Point.
Cedar Creek WMA provides a 35-acre field planted in browntop millet and sorghum. It's open some days during all three seasons. The area is 12 miles east of Monticello.
Clybel WMA on the Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center has a 35-acre wheat, millet and sorghum field that has adult/child and quota hunts. It is five miles south of Mansfield.
The Joe Kurz WMA has 120 acres of wheat planted for doves and is open some days during all three seasons. It is about 10 miles north of Woodbury.
Rum Creek WMA offers a 37-acre wheat field that hosts two quota hunts in September and is open to general hunts selected days the rest of the seasons. It is located east of Forsyth.
The new Houston County State Park has a 90-acre wheat and millet field open for dove shooting.
Region V dove shoots should be good at Emodel and River Creek WMAs, according to wildlife biologist Julie Robbins. Some quota hunts have been added to ease crowding, especially on opening day on some areas.
The Albany Nursery WMA has discontinued having an adult/child hunt this year because of lack of participation. The 25-acre field is planted with browntop millet and wheat is usually open about 14 days over the three segments of the dove season that run from September through January. The area is 11 miles west of Albany on Tallahassee Road.
Chickaswhatchee WMA has a 30-acre millet and wheat field that is open only a few days in the first season and they are managed as quota hunts. The area is about 19 miles southwest of Albany.
Elmodel WMA has a 50-acre dove field planted in millet, benne and soybeans. It is located eight miles north of Newton.
Flint River WMA has 15 acres planted in sorghum and croton for doves. The field is open limited days in all three seasons. The field is seven miles from Vienna.
Hannahatchee WMA usually has wheat planted on its 10-acre dove field, and it is open a few days the first two seasons and most of the third. It is about eight miles west of Richland.
Mayhaw WMA has a 10-acre oat field for dove shooting. It is west of Colquitt.
River Creek WMA contains a 10-acre field of millet, sorghum and corn that is open a few days for adult/child quota hunts. It is west of Thomasville.
In Region VI, wildlife biologist Chris Baumann said they might lose the use of Se
llers Dove Field this year. They are trying to develop fields at Dixon Memorial WMA near Waycross to replace those, but the fields may not be ready by opening day.
The lack of shooting opportunities in this area is causing them to work to offer more.
River Bend WMA has a 20-acre millet field open for dove shooting selected days during all three seasons. It is east of Dublin.
Paradise Public Fishing Area has a 77-acre millet and peanut field planted for doves. Located near Tifton, it is open most days during the seasons.
In Region VII, wildlife biologist David Mixon said they may have to make some changes because of budget cuts, but they hope to provide at least as many shooting opportunities as last year. They have improved the Altamaha WMA and are working on areas that were clear cut last year.
They also plan on replanting power lines on areas where they don't have specific dove fields.
The Altamaha WMA is open for dove shooting on its 20-acre millet and wheat field. Some restrictions apply during waterfowl season. It is two miles south of Darien.
Little Satilla WMA is open for dove hunting most of all three seasons, but has no planted fields. There may be some planted power line right-of-ways and other small open areas. The area is eight miles east of Patterson.
Paulks Pasture WMA is another tract with no planted fields for doves, but is open for hunting most of the season. Again, look for food plots, wildlife openings and utility right-of-ways for shooting locations. The area is north of Brunswick.
Penholoway Swamp WMA has a 40-acre field with millet, sunflowers, sorghum, benne and millet. Last year was the first hunt on this field, and it was not open until the later seasons. It is north of Mt. Pleasant.
Sansavilla WMA is open for dove hunting but has no state planted fields. It is 17 miles north of Brunswick.