Excitement builds for Pennsylvania dove season opener
The arrival of dove season is exciting for many reasons: It marks the return of fall hunting seasons for another year of fun in the field, it’s a great way to spend time outdoors with friends and family members, and the challenge of hitting these fast-flying birds tests even the most talented wing shooters – and if prepared right, they can be pretty darn tasty too.
This year, the Pennsylvania Game Commission “upped the ante” on dove hunting by adopting regulatory changes made by the federal government, which define key terms for hunters and landowners with respect to hunting conditions. New this year, dove hunting hours for migratory birds, including doves, will be a half-hour before sunrise to sunset. That means the noon start time for the early dove season has been eliminated.
But the big kicker is that hunters may now manipulate crops and other vegetation for the sole purpose of improving dove hunting.
According to the Game Commission, “Manipulation means the alteration of agricultural crops or natural vegetation by activities such as mowing, shredding, discing, rolling, chopping, trampling, flattening, burning or herbicide treatments.”
What that means is vegetation can be purposely cut or shredded to create bare ground strips of feed areas where doves are more likely to congregate, lending itself to manipulation in grain crop areas, such as wheat, milo, sorghum, millet, sunflower and buckwheat – all hot-draw food sources for doves.
Also according to the Game Commission:
“Manipulation does not include distributing or scattering of seeds, grains or other feed after removal from or storage on the field where grown. Manipulation does not include the placement of grain in piles or other artificial concentrations. In Pennsylvania, the manipulation of the crop or vegetation for purposes of dove hunting must be done no later than Sept. 15 each year.
“You cannot hunt waterfowl or other wildlife species over manipulated agricultural crops except after the field as been subject to a normal harvest and removal of grain recognized as a normal agricultural process. A managed dove field, which has had a crop manipulated, is off limits to hunting of all other species until 30 days after the manipulated grain and/or its residue is removed from the field.”
This should certainly create some interesting dove hunting opportunities in areas where standing crops already attract mourning doves, but now can be even further improved for hunting action.
I’m especially psyched for this year’s season opener, since I was one of just 39 lucky hunters drawn for the first Special Controlled Dove Hunt at the Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area. I put in on a whim earlier this month, and my name was actually drawn from among 359 applicants at the live drawing on Aug. 15. With an assigned hunt date of Sept. 1, I should have first crack at previously non-hunted fields, and I’m really hoping the birds cooperate.
Since the special management hunt will take place near waterfowl habitat areas, a stipulation of the hunt is that participants use approved non-toxic shot, as defined by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
With this in mind, I’ve already put in an order for KENT Cartridges’ newly released “Steel Dove” Precision Steel shot shells, which were specifically designed as a non-toxic alternative for dove hunting. With 1-1/8-ounce loads of number-six shot flying at 1,350 FPS, I’m certain they will get the job done if I can manage to effectively do my part on the other end of the shotgun.
Regardless, I’m really looking forward to the hunt and hoping for fair weather. We’ll see how it goes, but with all the new hype this year, I’m certain dove hunters are in for a good season. I know I’m sure excited.
Best of luck to everyone hitting the field come September, and stay safe.