The generous rains combined with abundant summer sunshine spurred excellent growth for sunflowers planted on the public dove fields across the state. Hunters should find excellent conditions for the opening of dove season on the traditional date of Sept. 1.
“Across the board, our dove fields have done well this year,” said John Brunjes, migratory bird coordinator for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. “It was just dry enough for planting, but wet enough to grow well.”
Three segments comprise dove season. The first segment closes Oct. 26. The second segment opens Nov. 24 and closes Dec. 4, while the third opens Dec. 24, 2016, and closes Jan. 15, 2017.
Dove population monitoring using leg bands show good numbers of young birds in the Kentucky population. “We have a lot more young birds this year than in the last two years,” Brunjes said. “We had two fairly poor reproductive years for doves due to bad weather during nesting time. The increased number of young birds will lead to better hunting this year.”
Pre-season scouting places a hunter into an advantageous position when time comes to pick a dove field to hunt. “Find fields that have birds during your pre-season scouting,” Brunjes said. “If there are no birds using a field prior to opening day, there are likely not going to be any birds on opening day either. It sounds simple, but hunt where you saw birds prior to opening day.”
Doves aren’t as wary during the first few days of the season as they are later after hunters educate them. As a result, the first few days of the season produce the easiest shots. That being said, that doesn’t mean hunters should wear a white T-shirt or a bright cap on opening day.
“I recommend wearing at least a camouflage tee shirt for early season dove hunting,” Brunjes said. “The later in the season you hunt; the more you need to camo up.”
Safety is another important consideration for dove hunters. The dove season opener is many hunters first time in the field since last winter. Anxiousness and excitement often bait a hunter into taking a risky shot.
“Shooting at low birds is a serious problem,” Brunjes said. “Think about where you are shooting before you pull the trigger. There is no shame in passing on a shot if you are unsure.”
Avoid shooting near dwellings or other buildings where your shot might land on them. Be careful hunting around livestock. They often spook when they hear a shotgun’s blast, exposing themselves to injury or escape.
“Always wear eye and ear protection as well,” Brunjes said.
Those who plan to hunt public fields should pack out what they bring into the field. “If you want public dove fields in the future, pick up after yourself,” Brunjes said. “We lose fields regularly because of littering.”
As a common courtesy to the landowner, hunters should pick up their spent shell hulls and ammunition boxes and clean their doves at home, not at the field. “Think about how you would like someone to treat your land and do the same,” Brunjes said.
Dove hunters must have a valid Kentucky hunting license, their Kentucky migratory game bird – waterfowl permit along with their Harvest Information Program (H.I.P.) confirmation number recorded on either this permit or their hunting license.
“Last year, our law enforcement officers reported 90 percent of hunters they checked had their H.I.P. confirmation number,” Brunjes said. “We’ve had excellent compliance.”
To get your H.I.P. number, visit the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife website at www.fw.ky.gov, click on the “My Profile” tab. Then, answer a few questions about last season’s harvest of migratory birds and get your confirmation number. Again, remember to record your H.I.P. confirmation number on either your Kentucky hunting license or Kentucky migratory game bird – waterfowl permit.
The fog now common in the morning foreshadows the coming of fall. Get out and enjoy the excitement of dove hunting this year.
Author Lee McClellan is a nationally award-winning associate editor for Kentucky Afield magazine, the official publication of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. He is a life-long hunter and angler, with a passion for smallmouth bass fishing.