State’s first dove season produces 107,000 birds

By Joe Albert

Staff Writer

St. Paul – Minnesota dove hunters last fall, in their first
season in nearly 60 years, shot about 107,000 birds, though the
number of hunters who pursued them was below early estimates.

The DNR estimated up to 50,000 people might hunt doves; about
14,000 hunters did, according to data released by the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service. The data was collected through Harvest
Information Program surveys.

DNR survey data showed results similar to those from the USFWS,
but officials aren’t concerned about a lack of hunters.

“That was based on no data whatsoever – that was just a guess,”
said Bill Penning, DNR farmland wildlife program leader. “It looks
like we’re going to ease into it rather than start with a huge
number of hunters.”

Penning said officials think the number of hunters who pursued
doves is pretty accurate, but the estimate of birds killed had a 42
percent margin of error, meaning the actual total could be off as
much as 45,00 doves either way.

Nationwide, about 1 million hunters killed about 20 million
doves. Most states pale in comparison to harvests in Texas and
California, where hunters killed about 5 million and 1 million
doves, respectively.

“Minnesota’s harvest is virtually undetectable on a national
scale,” Penning said.

Even within the state – where the estimated fall flight is about
12 million doves – hunters killed fewer than one percent of the
population.

“I think it will probably pick up a little bit this year,”
Penning said. “We’ll be recruiting more people into it as we go
along.”

And the dove season appears on safe footing, at least for now.
During the 2005 legislative session, there were House and Senate
bills introduced to repeal the dove season, but neither received
much discussion.

“I thought for sure it would be offered as an amendment to the
Game and Fish Omnibus bill,” said Gary Botzek of the Minnesota
Conservation Federation.

This fall’s dove season begins Sept. 1.

DNR dove discussion

Beginning in mid-August, the DNR will begin talking about
managing specifically for doves in the state. The first discussions
will center on dove management on DNR land, Penning said.

“We don’t really do any dove management right now,” he said.
“You’re trying to attract doves. It’s not like with waterfowl or
pheasants where you’re trying to create nesting habitat.”

Management would mean planting and managing grain fields. The
idea would be to concentrate birds in specific areas to provide
good shooting, Penning said.

Informal dove discussions will continue into the fall, and any
final decisions wouldn’t be made until later this year. Next spring
would be the earliest any of the management techniques would be
implemented, Penning said.

And it might not be that soon.

“We don’t have a dedicated source of funding for doves, so we’re
going to have to find the money to do it,” Penning said.

Categories: Hunting News

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