Another summer is flying by, and the tail end of it lands on Sept. 2, the opening day of dove hunting season.
The pop of shotguns is heard across hill and hollow at first light when fast-flying doves strafe hay fields and pastures in search of food. Ammunition companies gotta love dove season. It might take 10 shots before a hunter brings down one acrobatic dove.
That’s because some hunters haven’t fired a shotgun since last dove season. Shooting some clay targets before opening day can knock the rust off those shooting skills.
Dove season runs Sept. 22-Oct. 22 and Dec. 9-Jan. 16. The daily limit is 15 mourning doves or white-wing doves. There is no limit on Eurasian-collared doves.
Bagging a limit for a post-hunt feast is a challenge. So is finding a place to hunt. Most all dove hunting is on private land. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission manages two public dove hunting areas in Northwest Arkansas, one at Wedington Wildlife Management Area in western Benton and Washington counties and another at Madison County Wildlife Management Area.
Game and Fish plants sunflowers in fields on these areas. Only one holds much promise for public-land dove hunting, said Mark Hutchings, area wildlife biologist with Game and Fish. That’s an area south of Lake Wedington.
“There’s a good stand of sunflowers in strips. They look good now, but we’re not sure if they’ll be dried out and dropping seeds by opening day,” Hutchings said. Right now the sunflowers are pretty green.
The area is big enough to accommodate quite a few hunters, he noted. Shooting may be good if the sunflowers are dry and seed is falling to attract doves. The area is located east of Washington County 33 south of Lake Wedington. Take the first road to the east after passing the lake and go one-half mile to a parking area.
Game and Fish also planted sunflowers on the north end of Wedington Wildlife Management Area, but the crop failed. The sunflowers were looking good, but the whole crop died suddenly. Hutchings suspects some herbicide carryover killed it.
Madison County Wildlife Management Area isn’t an option this season. Sunflowers have been planted in previous seasons north of the area headquarters, but the habitat isn’t good for growing them, Hutchings said. There are no sunflowers this season.
“I wouldn’t tell people to go out there,” he said. Dove hunters are welcome to try their luck, but there will be little, if any, shooting, Hutchings predicted.
Finding a place on private land appears to be the best option. Better knock on some doors soon with the season only weeks away. Hay fields and disked pastures are good dove hunting spots. If there’s a pond nearby, so much the better.
Obtain permission and hunters may have a field to themselves after opening weekend. Nearly all dove hunting takes place the first weekend, then hunters gear up for archery deer season, teal season and a succession of seasons that open as summer turns into autumn.
Dove hunting may be the most social of any season. Getting family and friends together is a tradition. So is a post-hunt feast of grilled dove breasts or other delights hot off the coals. It’s OK to talk and make some noise when dove hunting, so it’s ideal for kids.
Here’s to good dove shooting and the start of another hunting season.
Flip Putthoff can be reaches at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @NWAFlip
Sports on 08/15/2017