Doves, Kids and Hunting

Kids love computer games because of their fast-paced excitement and the demand for thinking and hand-eye coordination. If you'd like to entice your child away from the computer this September, try taking him or her mourning dove hunting.

Dove hunting provides action and plenty of it! Mourning doves can fly faster than 40 mph and perform seemingly impossible aerial acrobatics. Wing shooting doves is challenging. Their dull gray feathers and deceptive flight speed allow doves to sneak up on you and be out gun range again in seconds.

Mourning doves are the most numerous and widely distributed migratory game bird in North America. They use all habitats, except northern forests and wetlands. They annually rank as one of the 10 most numerous bird species in North America. This is one of the reasons why doves are such popular game birds. A 1991 survey showed that Missouri dove hunters added $5.1 million to the state's economy. Nationally, mourning dove hunting generates more than $5 million annually for wildlife programs from the 11 percent excise tax on ammunition.

You can make dove hunting more meaningful and educational for you and your youngster by learning more about the birds' biology and life history.

Mourning doves are one of our most prolific nesting birds. In some parts of the U.S. they nest year round, while in Missouri they can nest from March through September with three to six nesting attempts.

Doves spend 10 to 14 days in the nest after hatching. Because the long nesting season overlaps with the beginning of hunting season, biologists conducted research to see if dove hunting impacted nesting success. Results from the project showed that less than 3 percent of all dove nests were started after the beginning of the hunting season, and 80 percent of the nesting activity usually occurs from mid-April to early September. Other studies have shown that young doves can survive on their own as early as five days after hatching.

Male mourning doves usually take the lead in defending a territory and selecting a nest site. Doves are famous for their flimsy nests, usually located 3 to 15 feet up in trees. Doves also nest on the ground. Research conducted in Missouri shows that success rates of tree nests and ground nests are similar. Females lay a two-egg clutch, and eggs hatch in 14 to 15 days. During incubation, both the male and female attend the nest. After hatching, squabs (young