Dove fields: Hunters show up, birds don’t

By Joe Albert Staff Writer

Watson, Minn. – Ken Varland, DNR regional wildlife manager in
New Ulm, didn’t hear of any complaints about the DNR’s management
of fields specifically for doves, ‘other than, where are the
doves?’

And that’s the line around the state: Hunters showed interest in
the 14 fields managed for doves, but doves didn’t show the same
interest.

‘It didn’t seem like they used the fields,’ Varland said. ‘It
wasn’t a situation of thousands and thousands of doves using a
field.’

DNR officials were up front that this was a learning year, and
that the 14 fields the agency planned to manage – all located on
wildlife management areas – might not be the holy grails of dove
hunting.

Indeed, there have been few days since the dove season began
Sept. 1 that hunters haven’t used the 20-acre field at Carlos Avery
WMA, but the most doves WMA manager Dan Rhode heard about one
hunter taking was three.

Despite intense efforts to attract doves to public land,
surrounding fields on private lands tended to hold as many, if not
more doves, Rhode said.

‘Nobody knew what to expect, having never done it before,’ he
said. ‘(Dove use) was below what I hoped for, but not necessarily
below what I expected.’

At Lac qui Parle WMA, which had six managed dove fields, manager
Dave Trauba checked the fields at least once a week. He always
found plenty of small grains laying on the ground, but little dove
activity.

‘I’m not a dove, but to me they looked good,’ he said.

Dove hunters tend to look for birds in harvested small grain
fields, and the DNR attempted to mimic such places.

Wildlife managers planted crops such as millet, buckwheat, and
sunflowers, and then knocked them down to scatter seeds across the
ground.

That exercise began in mid-August, but in the future it may be
helpful to start manipulating them earlier, Trauba said. In his
area, wheat fields held the majority of doves, and those were
picked in early August.

Even though doves should prefer the sunflowers that were
available at Lac qui Parle, the birds found the wheat fields and
stuck with those, he said.

‘The birds already had a (feeding) tradition established, and
now you’ve got to break them of that tradition,’ Trauba said. ‘I
think you’ve got to get your table set at the same time the wheat
fields come off.’

If Lac qui Parle has dove fields next year – and Trauba hopes it
will – he may look into having one or two big fields, rather than
six smaller fields. His thought is that doves may be wary of coming
to smaller fields, since they’re consistently getting shot at. On a
larger field, the birds might be able to land without being
pressured right away, he said.

‘Can we build up large numbers of doves when you are hunting on
the fields?’ Trauba asked.

If that’s possible, there’s likely to be plenty of hunter
interest. Managers of most areas that had dove fields fielded a
number of phone calls about them, Varland said.

At Carlos Avery, there were some hunters who hunted the fields
multiple times, and calls continue to come in, Rhode said.

‘We would like to get it to the point where we can reliably say,
‘yeah, you can shoot doves if you go out there,’ ‘ he said. ‘I
don’t think we are there yet.’

Categories: Hunting News

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