Reed Area’s tried and true dove hunting tradition

News from the region
Kansas City
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KANSAS CITY MO - Max Carney felt pretty good about his shooting percentage on Wednesday in the opening moments of Missouri’s dove hunting season, as he retrieved his second downed dove from a mowed sunflower patch at the James A. Reed Conservation Area.

“Two birds out of three shots, that’s not bad,” said Carney, 48, of Lone Jack.

He enjoyed the moment because he knew missed shots were ahead. Mourning doves are fast-flying and elusive targets. When they fly by in bunches, a hunter can empty shotgun shells quickly.

Fast action and tradition make opening day popular at the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) tract near Lee’s Summit. The area at 13101 S.E. Ranson Road hosts a dove hunting tradition dating to the early 1950s. Today, it offers more than 3,000-acres of natural meadows, ponds and woods on the Kansas City metro area’s urbanizing eastern fringe. Dove hunters know the area’s fields with crops such as sunflower seeds attract big numbers of birds.

“I’ve been coming out here for years,” Carney said. “I don’t always shoot my limit, but usually you can do pretty good.”

A rainy morning on Wednesday made the opening day crowd smaller than usual. But doves flew after shooting began at noon, and hunters they had cool afternoon temperatures, too.

“We’ll be here all afternoon,” Carney said. “Usually after four o’clock is when they really start flying.”

He pointed out doves in flight to George Kienzle, 83 of Belton, a newcomer to the sport. Hunters hiding in cover around the large field’s edge stood up and fired as singles and groups of doves sped past. Dove hunting can change from quiet sky watching into fast and furious shooting in an instant.

“This is fun,” Kienzle said, “it’s addictive.”

Due to the Reed Area’s popularity, special shooting hours for doves are from noon to sunset, rather than the normal sunrise start elsewhere in the state. Plus hunters must check in for a daily hunting permit and through September return a card to headquarters that gives biologists information on dove numbers, shots fired and birds killed. That information is used to help manage the area to help long-term dove populations.

Dove numbers are highest at the Reed Area as the season opens. Hunting pressure, cool weather and grain harvests in private fields can prompt flocks to move to new roosting and feeding areas. Some hunters don’t pursue doves beyond the season’s first few days.

But late-season dove hunts can still be productive and they’re a good chance to work dogs before other upland bird seasons that follow in late autumn.

Carney watches the weather patterns and likes to go when cold fronts have hit the northern states but it’s still warm in the Kansas City region. That pushes flocks of migrating doves south and those birds will make a stopover at the Reed Area’s sunflower and grain fields.

“I hunt up until the latter part of October or until the birds run out,” Carney said.

Less competition from other hunters and cooler temperatures are also a plus in late-season dove hunting.

“I’ve had some of my best dove hunting days in October,” said Rick Bredesen, wildlife manager at the Reed Area.

Fields are also managed to attract doves at the Platte Falls Conservation Area in Platte County and the Maple Leaf Conservation Area in Lafayette County. Beware that flooding this spring hurt sunflower seed production in many low-lying fields.

For more information on public hunting areas and maps of sunflower fields go to and type “dove hunting” in the search box.

Hunters can kill 15 doves daily and keep 30 in possession. The dove season closes Nov. 9.