OK: Dove season opener just around the corner

The Sept. 1 dove season opener is fast approaching, marking for
many the start of a fall season full of hunting memories.

This year dove season will run Sept. 1 – Oct. 31, statewide,
followed by another nine-day period open from Dec. 24 through Jan.
1, 2012, statewide. In previous years, dove season was split only
in the southwest portion of the state.

According to Alan Peoples, chief of wildlife for the Oklahoma
Department of Wildlife Conservation, the concept of providing a
late season dove hunt during the holidays worked so well in the
southwest dove zone that the idea appealed to other regions of the
state as well. But until this year, federal framework options set
forth by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service did not provide for it.
When the option became available to Oklahoma this year, the
Wildlife Department took the opportunity.

“This is a great opportunity that can benefit hunters statewide
with more hunting opportunity,” Peoples said.

According to Josh Richardson, migratory game bird biologist for the
Wildlife Department, this season may be “slightly different” than
normal.

” Our breeding counts were down at the start of the summer, we had
several severe weather outbreaks, followed by extreme heat and
drought,” Richardson said. “I’d expect dove numbers to be down some
from all that. However, there will still be plenty around. Besides,
we have had or are expected to get some ‘cold’ fronts moving
through, which will bring birds in from the north.”

According to Richardson, the biggest change for this year relates
to habitat conditions.

“A lot of wheat was plowed under early in the year due to the
drought, with many farmers replanting, hoping for the spring and
early summer rains to salvage the year,” Richardson said. “Fall
crops like corn, milo, and sunflower provide

good dove foods, but again, the drought really limited production
across most of the state.”

It also changed the farming timeline.

“Most of the corn around where I live was harvested two weeks ago,
and farmers are beginning to plow the fields while the ground has a
little moisture,” he said.

By the time dove season arrives, there may little if any food left
to attract birds, so Richardson said finding a good dove watering
source could be the key to a good hunt.

“Hunters in areas that have been fortunate enough to get enough
rain to start refilling ponds will want to find areas that have
most recently been harvested, or look for areas of natural foods
like sunflower, snow-on-the-mountain or

croton,” Richardson said. “

Richardson said areas that have been burned by wildfires due to
drought this year might in fact offer some good dove habitat.

“The fire creates a lot of bare ground and exposes and scatters
seed for the birds to eat,” Richardson said.

Full details and regulations for dove hunting are available in the
current “Oklahoma Hunting Guide,” available free online at
wildlifedepartment.com or at any location where hunting licenses
are sold.

To help well-meaning sportsmen avoid common dove season violations,
law enforcement officials with the Wildlife Department advise
hunters to read and familiarize themselves with the dove hunting
portion of the Hunting Guide, and all other portions that pertain
to species they plan to hunt.

“When hunters make a check list before season and follow it, they
will be much better prepared,” said Robert Fleenor, law enforcement
chief for the Wildlife Department. “Going out at the last minute
and not being prepared is the biggest problem.”

The following is a basic checklist to help avoid some of the most
common dove season mistakes:

* Obtain the appropriate hunting license as well as the Harvest
Information Program (HIP) permit.

* Use appropriate shotgun plug. Taking migratory game birds such as
doves with a shotgun capable of holding more than three shells in
the magazine and chamber combined, unless otherwise provided, is
prohibited. Fleenor said even well meaning hunters who remember to
plug their shotguns should still ensure that the plug they use
limits the magazine to two shells.

* Obtain landowner permission before hunting on private
property.

* Do not shoot across or from roadways. Shooting from or across any
public road, highway (or right-of-way) or railroad right-of-way is
prohibited. Public roadways are defined as any governmental or
corporate roadways where vehicular traffic is not restricted and
the roadway is routinely used by the general public.

* Know your doves. Identification of species is a key to hunter
success.

* Know you limits. The daily limit for dove is 15, which may
consist of any combination of mourning, white-winged and fully
dressed Eurasian collared doves (“fully dressed” describes those
birds without a head or fully feathered wing naturally attached to
the carcass). However, there is no limit on Eurasian collared doves
provided that the head or one fully feathered wing remain naturally
attached to the carcass of all such birds while being transported
to their final destination.

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