Scout it Out
- Area Name: Grand Pass Conservation Area
- Location: In Saline County, 8 miles west of Marshall on Highway 65, then 5 miles north on Route N.
- For more info: visit our online atlas, keyword "Grand".
One of Missouri’s best waterfowl areas also provides great dove-hunting opportunities. Grand Pass Conservation Area, located five miles southwest of Miami, has five fields of sunflowers prepared especially for dove hunters. Two fields are right next to a road. The others require a short walk. Hunters can pursue doves on 100 different conservation areas, including 800 fields totaling 2,800 acres, managed specifically for doves. Explore the links listed below for more information. Three-star areas have the best hunting. For maps of dove fields, click “Dove Fields” after selecting an area, or obtain them from regional offices or area headquarters. Some areas require reservations and have special regulations.
Dove hunters age 16–64 not hunting on their own property need a small game-hunting permit. All dove hunters 16 and older on both public and private land need a Missouri Migratory Bird Hunting Permit. Many areas require you to check in before the hunt and report your harvest after the hunt. Nontoxic shot is required on many areas, including Grand Pass. Expect other hunters, especially on weekends. Pay extra attention to hunter safety.
Shooting at Doves
Bring lots of shells. It’s rare to bag a limit with one box.
No matter how many spinning clay targets you reduce to dust at the practice range, it’s tough to prepare yourself adequately for dove hunting. Unlike clay pigeons, doves juke, feint and change direction as if they had traction, often leaving hunters shooting at air. Three birds per box of 25 shells is average. Even boastful shooters brag of one bird for every three shells.
Expect to miss, and you’ll be happier when you hit one. It sometimes helps dove hunters to allow themselves to shoot more instinctively. Instead of tracking a bird with your gun, wait until it is in range, lift your shotgun quickly, aim at the bird’s nose and pull the trigger. Use light loads. They work well for doves, and your shoulder won’t suffer as much from all the shooting.
Many hunters wear camouflage and sit (buckets are common) or stand near or under vegetation that breaks up their silhouette. The best places to set up are usually near the cleared fringes of fields. Stay still and the birds will come in closer. The birds are active all day, but feeding peaks in the morning and late afternoon.
If you hunt with a dog, bring extra water for it. If you set out decoys on open ground, fences or branches, face them into the wind. That’s how doves take off and land.
Birds of a Feather
It’s startling in an enjoyable way when a whoosh of blue-winged teal upsets the quiet of a lake or stream. You look up, and the speedy, twisting flock is already past. You’ve had your treat, and you never saw it coming.
Blue-winged teal—stocky little birds with a blue patch on each shoulder—are among the earliest migrating waterfowl. Flocks generally pass through Missouri during September, on their way to wintering grounds in Central and South America. The earliest travelers are mostly males, identifiable by a distinct white crescent behind the bill. Female blue-wings and immature birds generally migrate later. You can also distinguish males from females by their calls. Males whistle; females quack.
Blue-wings also are one of the last species to arrive at the breeding grounds, giving them a short time to accomplish nesting, incubation and fledging. They usually breed in late May, and the young might not be able to fly until they are 6 weeks old. Many young birds become food for predators.
Female blue-wings molt after the young are fledged, but males don’t wait that long. They seem to disappear a few weeks after incubation. Flightless and vulnerable for about four weeks, they mostly feed at night and hide during the day.
Blue-wings are omnivores. Their diet ranges from seeds to snails. They usually feed in water less than 8 inches deep.
Watch for Deer
A few tips to help avoid close encounters
Summer’s move into fall makes deer move, too, and their activities often bring them near roadsides. Motorists should remain especially alert for deer at night and near dusk and dawn.
Make a habit of scanning ahead and to the sides of the road as you drive. Don’t divert your attention by talking on a cell phone. Use your bright lights when there is no oncoming traffic; they’ll help you spot deer silhouettes or reflections from deer eyes. Be especially alert near creek bottoms or where the road interrupts tree lines or narrow fingers of forest. If you see a deer, slow down immediately. Deer can avoid a slow vehicle, and you will be better able to avoid them.
Avoid panic moves that would bring you into the path of oncoming traffic or cause you to leave the road. It’s better to hit a deer than to risk a more serious accident.
If you hit a deer, please report it. If you wish to keep the carcass, you are required to contact a conservation agent or local law enforcement. Reporting helps the Highway Department and the Conservation Department track vehicle/deer collisions.