The Sept. 1 dove season opener is fast approaching, marking for many the start of a fall season full of hunting memories.
This year dove season will run Sept. 1 – Oct. 31, statewide, followed by another nine-day period open from Dec. 24 through Jan. 1, 2012, statewide. In previous years, dove season was split only in the southwest portion of the state.
According to Alan Peoples, chief of wildlife for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, the concept of providing a late season dove hunt during the holidays worked so well in the southwest dove zone that the idea appealed to other regions of the state as well. But until this year, federal framework options set forth by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service did not provide for it. When the option became available to Oklahoma this year, the Wildlife Department took the opportunity.
“This is a great opportunity that can benefit hunters statewide with more hunting opportunity,” Peoples said.
According to Josh Richardson, migratory game bird biologist for the Wildlife Department, this season may be “slightly different” than normal.
“Our breeding counts were down at the start of the summer, we had several severe weather outbreaks, followed by extreme heat and drought,” Richardson said. “I'd expect dove numbers to be down some from all that. However, there will still be plenty around. Besides, we have had or are expected to get some ‘cold’ fronts moving through, which will bring birds in from the north.”
According to Richardson, the biggest change for this year relates to habitat conditions.
“A lot of wheat was plowed under early in the year due to the drought, with many farmers replanting, hoping for the spring and early summer rains to salvage the year,” Richardson said. “Fall crops like corn, milo, and sunflower provide
good dove foods, but again, the drought really limited production across most of the state.”
It also changed the farming timeline.
“Most of the corn around where I live was harvested two weeks ago, and farmers are beginning to plow the fields while the ground has a little moisture,” he said.
By the time dove season arrives, there may little if any food left to attract birds, so Richardson said finding a good dove watering source could be the key to a good hunt.
“Hunters in areas that have been fortunate enough to get enough rain to start refilling ponds will want to find areas that have most recently been harvested, or look for areas of natural foods like sunflower, snow-on-the-mountain or
croton,” Richardson said.“
Richardson said areas that have been burned by wildfires due to drought this year might in fact offer some good dove habitat.
“The fire creates a lot of bare ground and exposes and scatters seed for the birds to eat,” Richardson said.
Full details and regulations for dove hunting are available in the current “Oklahoma Hunting Guide,” available free online at wildlifedepartment.com or at any location where hunting licenses are sold.
To help well-meaning sportsmen avoid common dove season violations, law enforcement officials with the Wildlife Department advise hunters to read and familiarize themselves with the dove hunting portion of the Hunting Guide, and all other portions that pertain to species they plan to hunt.
“When hunters make a check list before season and follow it, they will be much better prepared,” said Robert Fleenor, law enforcement chief for the Wildlife Department. “Going out at the last minute and not being prepared is the biggest problem.”
The following is a basic checklist to help avoid some of the most common dove season mistakes:
Obtain the appropriate hunting license as well as the Harvest Information Program (HIP) permit.
Use appropriate shotgun plug. Taking migratory game birds such as doves with a shotgun capable of holding more than three shells in the magazine and chamber combined, unless otherwise provided, is prohibited. Fleenor said even well meaning hunters who remember to plug their shotguns should still ensure that the plug they use limits the magazine to two shells.
Obtain landowner permission before hunting on private property.
Do not shoot across or from roadways. Shooting from or across any public road, highway (or right-of-way) or railroad right-of-way is prohibited. Public roadways are defined as any governmental or corporate roadways where vehicular traffic is not restricted and the roadway is routinely used by the general public.
Know your doves. Identification of species is a key to hunter success.
Know you limits. The daily limit for dove is 15, which may consist of any combination of mourning, white-winged and fully dressed Eurasian collared doves (“fully dressed” describes those birds without a head or fully feathered wing naturally attached to the carcass). However, there is no limit on Eurasian collared doves provided that the head or one fully feathered wing remain naturally attached to the carcass of all such birds while being transported to their final destination.