Dove Hunting Prospects
- Mourning dove
- White-winged dove
- Eurasian collared-dove
Missouri is home to three species of dove that are legal to harvest during the state’s dove hunting season. Mourning doves are the most common species found statewide, but hunters may also encounter white-winged doves or Eurasian collared-doves. White-winged doves are common to southwest states and Mexico, and Eurasian collared-doves have arrived in Missouri fairly recently and are increasingly common, especially near urban areas.
Hunting and Management
Doves are popular birds to hunt in Missouri. They are found throughout the state and are often abundant, using both wild and planted food sources. Doves are fun to hunt because they are fast, agile fliers and test a shooter’s skills by twisting and turning through the air. Because doves are sensitive to hunting pressure, many dove-hunting fields are managed with no-hunting periods throughout the season so birds have the opportunity to feed without being bothered, which keeps them in the area longer.
Once you’ve found a likely field, the next step is to decide where in the field to hunt. If possible, scout the field a day or two before the season opens and observe how the doves enter and use the field. Oftentimes you will find that many or most of the doves use the same flight path — often along a linear feature such as a tree line, field edge, or ditch. If possible, set up along this flight path in a spot that offers concealment but still allows you to see incoming birds. A tall patch of weeds or sunflowers often offers this cover. Also, because doves regularly perch in dead limbs before entering the field to feed, look for tall dead trees or limbs near the feeding field. Decoys, including motion wing decoys, may coax birds in closer.
Mourning doves are habitat generalists, which means they use many different habitat types across their range. Therefore, it’s not really necessary to conduct habitat management specifically for doves, although dove species benefit from many types of habitat management. The Department plants fields of seed-producing grains and sunflowers for forage and maintains low vegetation height and some bare ground to provide conditions favored by doves.
Ongoing Dove Research
The Department is engaged in collaborative dove research with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other states as part of our commitment to the wise stewardship of our game species. The Department participates in the National Dove Banding Program, which helps us to better understand and manage mourning dove harvest at national, regional, and statewide scales. About 3,000 small metal leg bands are placed on mourning doves annually. Since 2004, over 23,000 mourning doves have been banded across the state. Hunters have reported harvesting 2,624 doves banded in Missouri — some of which were reported from 15 other states and Mexico! Banding data are used to construct population models, which informs decisions about hunting regulations and harvest management. If you harvest a banded dove, please report the band number to 800-327-BAND, or at www.reportband.gov.
The Department also collects hunter-harvested dove wings. Hunters at some managed dove hunting areas will be asked to provide a wing from each of their harvested birds so that staff can determine the age of the birds based on feather coloration and growth. This information helps estimate dove nesting and brood-rearing success.
As part of an effort to better understand how shooting field management affects doves and hunters, several conservation areas require hunters to fill out a daily hunting card to gauge hunter success and satisfaction.
2014 Featured Hunting Spots
This year, nearly 4,700 total acres on 93 conservation areas are actively managed for doves. Managed dove hunting fields are planted in sunflowers, wheat, millet, buckwheat, corn, or a combination of these. Each field provides a different type of hunting experience.
To locate dove fields, contact the regional office in the area that you’d like to hunt. Find dove-hunting maps at Dove Hunting Areas under MDC Resources below.
- Atlanta CA (Macon Co.)
- August A. Busch CA (St. Charles Co.)
- Bois d’Arc CA (Greene Co.)
- Columbia Bottom CA (St. Louis Co.)
- James A. Reed Memorial WA (Jackson Co.)
- Locust Creek CA (Sullivan Co.)
- Maintz Wildlife Preserve (Cape Girardeau Co.)
- Pony Express CA (DeKalb Co.)
- Robert E. Talbot CA (Lawrence Co.)
- Ten Mile Pond CA (Mississippi Co.)
Foods Commonly Planted for Doves
- Black-oil sunflower seeds
- Waste corn, wheat, or milo following harvest
If You Harvest a Banded Dove
Please report it! 1-800-327-BAND or go to www.reportband.gov. We only want the band number — you get to keep the band!