Mention dove season to most Arkansas outdoors people, and they think of two days, the opening weekend.
For some it is party time like the tradition of “Col. Bob’s Dove Shoot” which includes some hunting amidst other activities including elaborate outside meals and convivial beverages.
For most, the opening weekend is a chance to get out and do some shooting, a tune-up for things to come like deer season and duck season.
For a smaller percentage of hunters, dove season is an option and an opportunity covering 70 days in two segments — Sept. 1-Oct. 25 and Dec. 26-Jan. 9.
Dove hunting is a plural affair, meaning it is best done with several hunters, even a sizable number of hunters. Nothing is wrong with going out by yourself and trying for some doves, but it is hard to joke with yourself on how many shells you fired to come home with just a handful of doves.
Camouflage clothing is a virtual necessity for dove hunting. Sure, you can wear blue jeans and a white T-shirt that says Go Hogs, but your chances are much better if you are clad head to toe in camo. It is hot these days, but a long-sleeved cam T-shirt will hide bare arms.
A usual tactic is to pick a position with a tree or a bush at your back. This lessens the visibility of the foreign object to a flying dove. Sitting on a folding stove will reduce your visibility even more.
Doves have three priorities in their daily activities — food, water and a place to rest. They eat weed seeds, grains and, to a lesser extent, soy beans. Sunflower seeds are well liked.
With the current dry conditions, a logical strategy would be to pick a spot close to a food source and a pond or creek or river. Water is reduced at present, so doves have fewer places to find water. Some ponds are dry.
Get the sun at your back if you can. This lets you see the doves better and hampers doves’ chances of seeing you. Movement is another giveaway of your presence to doves. Be as still as possible even when you don’t see doves.
If you are hunting as a guest of someone or have permission to hunt a farmer’s field, ask a simple question before the hunt starts: “Has this field been baited?” You do not need a sworn affidavit, but the verbal answer of “no” should cover you if enforcement agents show up. Look at the field too. See grain or salt scatter around? Hightail it out of there.
Be careful. When doves are coming in and several hunters are shooting at them, it is no time to run out and pick up a bird you have dropped. Visually mark where it fell and wait.
Most Arkansas dove hunters choose field loads, low brass, with No. 7 or No. 8 shot. No. 9 shot or skeet loads will work on doves. Most also prefer improved cylinder or modified chokes. If your only choice is a full-choke gun, use it, but shoot before doves are very close to you, like inside 15 yards.
The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission tells us that the outlook is good for this dove season despite the hot, dry weather of summer. Doves are prolific, and their numbers appear strong all over Arkansas.
Daily bag limit is 15, possession limit is 30, and there is no limit on Eurasian collared doves, an invasive species. Be sure you can identify these if you run across them. Shooting hours are 30 minutes before sunrise to sunset.
Doves are classified as migratory birds, so federal authorities set the general rules. Only shotguns can be used, and these can’t hold more than three shells. Lead shot is allowed except on some federal wildlife refuges. You have to be HIP, meaning registered for the Harvest Information Program. This is free and can be done at any Game and Fish Commission office, license dealer or online at www.agfc.com.
Joe Mosby is the retired news editor of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and Arkansas’ best known outdoor writer. His work is distributed by the Arkansas News Bureau in Little Rock. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.