Thoughts of mourning dove hunting
I have to confess that, at this stage of my life, I’m nowhere close to being filled with the youthful anxious feelings and impatient jitters as I await the opening of mourning dove season in Pennsylvania.
This diminutive speedster of a game bird never failed to reawaken my urge to hunt during leisurely summer months.
I was lucky that my parents’ home and property had, at the end of a huge yard, a wide and wild field that fronted a sizable section of woods. Well across that woodlot sat many fields of grain and, after hours of feeding in those fields, doves would cross those woods and our field heading toward huge stands of conifers that sat across the street from our home for a night’s sleep.
Within our field of grass and weeds were plenty of saplings that provided good hiding spots to fire away at passing doves. Many an early September evening you could find me sitting comfortably on a lawn chair behind one of those saplings, missing a good number more doves than ever hitting.
Undeniably, it was fun, and surely exciting.
Now I spend very little time hunting doves. It is not for lack of these birds nor spots to hunt them, but most likely from a huge loss of the get-up-and-go I once had in the warmth of early September, plus now, the early resident Canada goose season draws much of my hunting attention in this month.
Across the state (and country), dove hunting remains an extremely popular form of hunting. Biologists estimate that up to 400 million doves are alive come each fall in North America, with at least 20 million harvested nationwide, including 100,000 taken in Pennsylvania.
Mourning doves can have anywhere between one to six broods of two eggs each year. Their adult lifespan, in general, however, is less than one year.
When it comes to hunting doves, look for harvested grain fields with spilled grain, fields that have wild vegetation that produces seeds and spots of open earth the birds use for dusting and grit.
Other good spots to hunt are easily accessible watering spots – which doves love, tall secluded trees near field edges that doves will rest in, and the outside of roosting areas, consisting of conifers (over-hunting roosting spots will move birds for good from these areas, especially if the hunting is undertaken too close to actual roosting trees).
Finding good places with plenty of doves may be as easy as driving around and looking for utility lines with birds resting upon them.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission has undertaken a program on state game lands termed “managed dove fields,” which provide perfect dove habitat and acres upon acres of open public land for hunting doves. Check the Game Commissions website for maps of these areas.
Dove seasons this year in Pennsylvania are Sept. 2 through Nov. 29 and Dec. 21 through Jan. 4, 2020. Hunting hours are one-half-hour before sunrise to sunset, with a 15-bird daily limit and 45-bird possession limit.
Dove hunting may often be a fast-paced and action-packed time afield. Many missed shots are part of the deal, because these speedy, twisting and darting grey flashes can be hard to hit.
But when a few are harvested, there promises to be some mighty fine eating. Dove breasts folded over thin red pepper slices and then wrapped in bacon, and finished by quickly being grilled over hot coals, is fabulous as hors d‘oeuvres. And that’s just one way to prepare them. Trust me on that.