Dove season kicks off hunting season

Dove season kicks off hunting season

Sportsmen eagerly anticipate the first shot of autumn as dove season kicks off the new hunting season. For many hunters, opening day of the first dove season split offers the first opportunity to carry a gun since the end of turkey season some five months ago. For non-turkey hunters, that huntless time could be eight or nine months long. Last year, about 59,000 dove hunters bagged more than a million of these highly prolific birds.

This year, dove season opens September 6 and lasts Sept. 14. The other splits run from Oct. 18-Nov. 17, and Dec. 13-Jan. 11. Hunters may take up to 12 per day. By far, the majority of those harvested each year fall during the first split.

“Most hunters only hunt the first split and then move on to something else,” said Fred Kimmel, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries upland game study leader. “Once squirrel, duck and deer seasons open, most dove hunters are seeking other game. There is a lot of good hunting during the second and third splits, but not a lot of people participating.”

During the early September opening split, most hunters pursue resident birds. Migrants arrive during the later two splits. “Dove reports look good,” Kimmel said. “There were a lot of resident birds this summer. I would say the first split would be good to excellent. I expect it to be good, if we don’t get an early cold front or hurricane. Migrants don’t really start to show up until the second and third splits.”

Sandy Hollow Wildlife Management Area, north of Amite is one of the best public dove hunting areas. An area of fields and pines, the state manages several planted fields for doves. “There are a number of fields planted in millet and cut for dove hunting,” Kimmel said. “In some years, it’s really good and some years it is slow. There should be some doves killed this year. It’s one of the more popular areas.”

On opening weekend only, the area north of Louisiana Highway 10 is reserved for youth hunting only. Adults can hunt but they must have a hunter under 16 with them. South of state Highway 10 is open to everyone, Kimmel said.

To hunt doves, sportsmen can either wait for them along the edges of grain fields or flush them in sparely timbered open country. Doves must drink water every day, so hunting evening watering holes provides action. Without teeth, they must swallow gravel or pebbles to help break down food. Old gravel pits with some standing water could ensure success in top areas.

The state is also leasing private land upon which landowners will permit public hunting. Call the LDWF to find out the latest available fields. For other birds, quail and woodcock populations are down nationally, although the quail population in Louisiana is up slightly, Kimmel said. Quail frequent much of the same habitat that attracts doves, but woodcock hide in the most tangled, inaccessible damp bogs.

Hunting either without trained pointing or flushing dogs can be frustrating. “We expect to have a decent quail season this year,” Kimmel said. We haven’t had a severe drought so I suspect we should have a good hatch this year.

Woodcock numbers are down nationwide, but Louisiana numbers depend upon weather. Last year, mild weather prevented many migrants from heading this far south. Woodcock move frequently. They might move into an area in force overnight and disappear again the next day. Sandy Hollow WMA offers both quail and woodcock hunting. “Sandy Hollow WMA is managed specifically for quail,” Kimmel said. “Ben’s Creek WMA will have some quail. Both of those areas will also have some woodcock along the drains.

Pearl River WMA sometimes has some woodcock, especially in those areas where timber has been cut.” During the season about 6,300 quail hunters bagged about 71,000 birds. Some 9,000 woodcock hunters killed about 67,000 of these buff-colored speedsters. Quail season begins Nov. 27 and ends Feb. 28, 2016 with a daily bag limit of 10. Woodcock season runs from Dec. 18-Jan. 31 with a daily bag limit of three.

by John Felsher
For many hunters, opening day of the first dove season split offers the first opportunity to carry a gun since the end of turkey season some five months ago.

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