Iowa’s dove season opens Sept. 1
Hunter interest remains high, heading into Iowa’s third mourning dove season. The 70-day season opens Sept. 1, with birds now pouring into Iowa on their southward migration.
Migrating birds are noticed in the early days of August, building through the late summer. The number of hunters should edge upward, too.
“I expect a little bump up in hunter numbers again, as more of them learn about dove hunting. A few more friends will come along,” predicts DNR upland research biologist Todd Bogenschutz.
Last year, 9,328 dove hunters harvested 94,864 birds, according to the post-season small game survey. That was up from 8,780 hunters, taking 57,285 mourning doves in 2011, the first year of dove hunting in Iowa. Iowa’s summer ‘call count’ showed a stable local dove population early this summer.
“Hunters are learning more about hunting and where to find doves,” says Bogenschutz. “That first week is good. It’ll drop off after the first killing frost, but there are great hunting opportunities throughout the two month season.”
The continent’s most populous game bird, mourning doves offer a new type of hunting for Iowans. It more often resembles ‘pass shooting’ familiar to waterfowl hunters.
Doves will concentrate in fields that have been harvested or which have food plots, especially if bare ground is available. Rather than walking and flushing birds, camouflaged hunters should ‘sit and wait’, near food sources, water or roosting locations.
As with most upland species, weather is always a factor.
A soggy April and May meant numerous fields did not get planted, or were flooded. Bogenschutz says he has noticed plenty of fields in the past weeks, which came up in weeds or which might have had a cover crop like winter wheat planted. Both offer great dove hunting, especially if disked to provide bare ground for feeding.
Iowa’s best dove hunting is probably on public wildlife areas with sunflower plantings. Hunters increase their chances of success by scouting ahead of time, checking with wildlife biologists in their area for locations of sunflower plots or — in the case of flooded fields — areas replanted late with cover crops. The Iowa DNR’s website (www.iowadnr.gov) has a variety of mourning dove hunting information, from a ‘how to’ video to Iowa’s online hunting atlas.
Mourning doves are classed as a federal migratory bird. A migratory bird fee (known formerly as the duck stamp) is not required to hunt doves. However, when hunters buy their licenses, they are automatically registered — if they answered yes, that they intended to hunt for doves. Hunters can go online to change their status if they answered no and changed their mind. The website is http://www.iowadnr.gov/Hunting/MigratoryGameBirds/MourningDoves.aspx
Safety is always a primary concern during hunting season. Mourning dove season offers a few specific cautions.
Hunters should recognize that other hunters will be sharing the same dove fields and that they should limit their field of fire as the darting, fast-flying doves sail through. Shorter, 20-25 yard shots using a shotgun with an open choke is recommended, especially for beginners.
Hunters are also reminded to scoop up spent shot shells before they leave, especially on public areas that may be hunted heavily in the first couple weeks of the season.
See also: Need a place to hunt? Go online.