By Ken White
Since Sept. 1 comes on a Thursday this year, the large population of doves within the state won’t have much time to dodge hunters before the big Labor Day weekend. Which will be fine with many hunters like George Cooper, a retiree who has spent many opening days through the years working.
“This year,“ Cooper said, “I will be able to surprise the birds on opening day. With dove hunting, the first few days of the season can be pretty much it. After the first big blast, the birds seem to get smart and by the next weekend, they usually are adjusted to hunters or a few cool nights will move them farther south. A lot of the opening day birds are local, so there are still plenty of birds up north yet to pass through the state.”
Reports from hunters and farmers in Missouri has shown a good population of doves prior to opening day. The season will run through Nov. 29, an addition of 20 days compared to last year.
As usual, places where there are plenty of water and food, the doves start to bunch up. Several farmers, including Jack Holland, found such a spot recently. He didn’t recall seeing so many doves as he was cutting silage.
For several years, I found an excellent spot to hunt doves. Dead cottonwood trees near a small pond located close to a grain field lured a lot of birds that didn’t seem to leave after I started shooting. My gun barrel was hot during the half-hour it took to bag the limit.
George Cooper has a favorite spot in Vernon County where he usually starts the dove season and along with his shotgun, he carries a fishing rod and reel. He said, “There is this nice farm pond where the birds like to get water on their way to the nearby roost. The pond also has some big bass and bluegill so whenever I go dove hunting there, I bring along some fishing gear and if the hunting is slow, I pick up the rod, catch a grasshopper and can usually catch a mess of fish. It doubles my pleasure.”
There are more than 180 conservation areas located across the state, and many of them are managed for doves, including sunflower fields, which draw a lot of birds. Twenty-one of those conservation areas require nontoxic shot. They have large wetlands where sizable numbers of waterfowl concentrate in the fall. The nontoxic shot requirement applies to all hunting with a shotgun. For a list of these areas plus information on dove, rail, snipe and teal, check the Migratory Bird Hunting Digest for 2016, which is available at any place permits are sold.
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