If you’re an upland bird hunter like me, you’ve been looking forward to the Sept. 1 dove opener all summer. The importance of the date is that it marks the beginning of the fall upland bird hunting seasons, which seem to fly by and end all too quickly in mid-January. It’s the start of something that just gets better as you go, as the temperatures cool down and other seasons (woodcock, quail, pheasant) open.
It’s not that dove openers are always great hunts, although they are usually the best dove hunts of the season in terms of birds seen and harvested. It can still be uncomfortably hot at this time of the year, and the best fields can be overcrowded with hunters, requiring us all to be especially courteous and safety-conscious. The abundant rainfall and some flooding this past spring has limited the number of dove fields that will be in prime condition for this year’s opener.
Here are some tips to get you ready for the hunt next Wednesday:
As it was last year, the daily limit is 15 birds and shooting hours are one-half hour before sunrise to sunset. Legal species are mourning doves, Eurasian collared doves and white-winged doves. I’ve never seen a white-winged dove in Missouri, but they are a possibility. Eurasian collared doves are getting more and more common here and may be increasingly likely to be a part of your daily bag. Remember, about 2,500 Missouri doves have been banded annually in recent years as part of a national study to track dove movements. Check your downed birds for bands and report any banded birds using the toll-free phone number or Internet website. The "Migratory Bird Hunting Digest 2010" provides more details.
Please be safe and courteous to other hunters. Pick up your litter, including empty shot shells, and carry it out with you. Good hunting!