JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – If you are looking for an excuse not to hunt doves, don’t look to the Missouri Department of Conservation. Its staff has prepared 178 fields in 95 of Missouri’s 114 counties especially for dove hunting. No one in the state is far from a dove field.
Missouri’s dove season runs from Sept. 1 through Nov. 9. The daily limit is 15. In years past, the possession limit was twice the daily limit. This year, however, the Missouri Conservation Commission increased the possession limit to 45.
Mourning doves make up the vast majority of Missouri’s dove harvest, but Eurasian collared doves and white-winged doves also are found in the Show-Me State and are legal during dove season. Missouri residents age 16 through 64 must buy a small game hunting permit to pursue doves. All dove hunters 16 and older must have a Missouri Migratory Bird Hunting Permit.
More than 20,000 Missourians hunt doves. Why do so many people pursue such a small bird? Partly because doves are challenging game. They fly at speeds of up to 55 mph and perform aerial maneuvers that would inspire a “top gun’s” envy.
Doves’ popularity also stems from their abundance. When they aren’t humiliating hunters (who average approximately five shots per dove taken), doves are nesting. They start in March and continue well into September, often rearing six clutches in a year. This year’s nesting season got off to a slow start on account of cool weather. On the whole, however, weather has been favorable, and the Conservation Department predicts a strong hatch.
Each year, the Conservation Department plants sunflowers, corn wheat, sorghum and other crops at conservation areas to provide food for doves and other wildlife. These fields typically are treated in the weeks leading up to Sept. 1 to create prime feeding spots for doves. This practice also creates excellent hunting.
Finding these spots is easy. Just visit mdc.mo.gov/node/8905 for a list of CAs with managed dove fields. Information available on the website includes maps showing the location of dove fields and the type of crop planted there. Nine conservation areas (CAs) with managed dove fields are located in Jackson or one of the other counties bordering Kansas City. St. Louisans have seven CAs with dove fields within one county, as do Springfield residents. St. Clair and Butler counties have seven each.
If you haven’t hunted one of the Conservation Department’s managed dove fields before, here are a few tips to ensure a good, safe hunt.
A handful of CAs manage dove hunting through drawings to prevent over-crowding and ensure safety. These areas are:
The Conservation Department bands approximately 2,500 birds annually as part of a nationwide effort to create a dove-management database. Approximately 12 percent of those doves are recovered and reported, mostly by hunters. Data from band recoveries drive a wide array of analytical processes that directly affect mourning dove regulations. By reporting band numbers, hunters are helping manage our dove resource for future generations.
The most important thing dove hunters can do to improve their sport is to check every bird they shoot for a leg band and report any they find at reportband.gov, or by calling 800-327-BAND (2263).
For dove recipes, visit mdc.mo.gov/node/4605.