The sporting spotlight moves from fins to feathers when dove hunting season opens Sept. 1.
Opening day is on a Sunday this year, the first time for the season to open on a Sunday. Dove hunting usually starts the first Saturday in September. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission opted for the Sunday opening day because the first Saturday this year isn’t until Sept. 7.
Dove season this year is Sept. 1-Oct. 27 and Dec. 14-Jan. 15. The daily limit is 15 mourning dove and white-winged dove. There is no limit on Eurasian collared dove.
New this season is the addition of two new permit-hunt fields in Northwest Arkansas near Lincoln and Siloam Springs. The deadline to apply for a permit was last Thursday.
Barring any glitches, successful applicants were expected to be contacted by email last Friday that they got a permit, said Hugh Lumpkin, area private lands biologist with Game and Fish. He oversees the permit dove program here.
Game and Fish leased the fields from landowners and contracted with them to sow sunflowers and other dove-attracting plants. The field near Lincoln is planted in millet and has 16 shooting stations. Sunflowers are the primary crop at the Siloam Springs field. It has 20 shooting stations.
Around 900 hunters statewide applied for permits to hunt the four fields in the permit system, Lumpkin said. There’s the two Northwest Arkansas fields, plus a field near Lonoke and one in Prairie County in east-central Arkansas.
Each person with a permit is allowed to bring one other hunter with them. Hunting is on weekends only through mid-September at the permit fields.
That doesn’t mean people without a permit are out of the dove hunting game. Game and Fish has options for dove hunting on public land at the Wedington Wildlife Management Area east of Siloam Springs and public land around the state.
The Wedington public dove fields are on the south side of Arkansas 16 west of Lake Wedington, said Richard Bowen, area wildlife biologist with Game and Fish. There’s another dove field along Krie Road in the management area.
To reach that field from Lake Wedington, drive west on Arkansas 16 to Wedington Blacktop Road. Turn left (south) and go about three miles to Krie Road. Some poultry barns are visible at the junction. Turn left (east) and go one mile to a sharp curve in the road that goes right. Turn left here, cross a cattle guard and park. The field is on the right.
Additional smaller fields are in the Wedington Wildlife Management Area small game unit. To reach these from Springdale, drive 13 miles west on U.S. 412 to Kinchloe Road. Turn left (south) and go 1.3 miles to Forest Road 1754. Go 0.3 miles to the system of small fields.
All have been planted in sunflowers or millet. They’ll be top-sown with wheat before opening day, Bowen said.
These fields are first come, first served, so expect some company on opening morning. Dove hunting seems to be an opening weekend thing. Interest is hot and heavy on opening day, then drops off in a major way after that.
A group of us skipped opening weekend, but hunted the Krie Road field on a Friday in mid-September last season. We saw one other hunter, but only a few distant doves.
Doves are migratory, so weather is a factor for hunters. A cold front can push more doves into the area and action may pick up.
Fields with seed-bearing plants such as wheat, corn or sunflowers are dove magnets, but we’ve had success hunting your average pasture. Years ago we were invited to hunt with a landowner at one of his fields. Cows grazed around and there were some round hay bales. Nothing special about it except for some seed-bearing weeds.
Three of us managed to bag a nice mess of doves that morning. Dove breasts wrapped in bacon and sizzled to perfection on the grill makes a fine feast.
Flip Putthoff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org