Dove hunting time is rapidly approaching, and this is one activity in the outdoors that has few problems and issues swirling around it.
We have plenty of doves in Arkansas. Hunting doesn’t put a dent in their populations, the wildlife biologists tell us, and considerably more could be taken by hunters without concerning the overall outlook.
So why don’t more people do more dove hunting?
Tradition and habit are likely answers. The vast majority of Arkansans who hunt doves treat it as a one-day or one-weekend season. Opening day of dove season is a social event to many. Get with a bunch of friends, bang a lot of shotgun shells then collect the birds and have a party.
Some such dove hunts are long-running with invitations prized items for folks. The first day of dove season is a convenient reason for getting together for good eats and refreshments.
The habit for many hunters is to regard dove season as one or two days then forget about it until the next year. They pass up the additional opportunities of a total 70-day season. Late-in-the-year dove hunting can be outstanding.
Those one- or two-day dove hunters voice a number of reasons for the actions. “Just need to limber up and get my shooting eye going.” “Shotgun practice is what I need for duck season later on.” “The kids can go with me on opening dove weekend. They’ll be wrapped up in a bunch of other stuff later on.”
This season’s dove dates are Saturday, Sept. 8, through Saturday, Oct. 25 and Saturday, Dec. 20, through Thursday, Jan. 8.
If you’ve got a place close by to hunt doves, it’s possible to run out after work and get in an hour or two of action. Dove hunts can be combined with other hunting — rabbit and squirrel early then deer and duck for the second segment. All right, throw in early Canada goose hunting, but there is a caution here. Don’t carry lead shot dove loads with you while hunting geese, which is steel shot only. Wildlife enforcement officers don’t accept “oh, I forgot” as an excuse.
Doves are prolific birds, and they are adaptable. Food, which is mainly seeds, is available all over Arkansas and so is water and grit, their other dietary requirements. In a wetter than normal year like we are having, doves may be even more abundant.
Many Arkansans plant patches of sunflowers to attract doves. Any type of sunflowers produces sees these birds relish. They also eat grains of several types, but a year-round mainstay is weed seeds.
Doves produce good meat for the table although there is not a lot on a single bird. Bring home 8, 10, 12 or a limit of 15 doves, and you’ve got plenty for the family.
Most of the meat for eating is on the breasts of the birds. Hunters and their cooks have all sorts of recipes and methods or preparation for doves, and one popular way of cooking them is simple but tasty.
Take several skinned-out dove breasts and wrap each with a strip of bacon. Some cooks use just a half strip, and this is adequate. Pork bacon, turkey bacon — it’s your choice. Sprinkle the breasts with your favorite seasoning salt before or after wrapping with the bacon. Put on a grill or under a broiler and cook until the bacon is brown and crisp. Be careful not to overcook.
OK, let’s get ready for some dove hunting.
(Outdoor writer Joe Mosby can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.)