Scouting fields will pay off for dove hunters this autumn

Kansas City, Mo. – A rainy and cool spring affected crops in fields managed on public wildlife areas for dove hunting. The doves will be flying as usual when the season opens on Sept. 1. But hunters who scout fields ahead of the season opener will boost their chances for success, biologists say.

Sunflowers are a favored food crop for doves. But heavy rains kept sunflower seed from sprouting in some fields, said Rick Bredesen, a Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) wildlife biologist. Fields were too wet for planting in some parts of west central and northwest Missouri until late spring or early summer, providing too short a growing season for sunflowers. But wildlife area managers have in those areas planted crops such as millet, which also attracts doves.

“The best way to find doves is to scout ahead of time,” Bredesen said. “The benefit is they will know where the birds are. Hunters should look for places near crop fields, perhaps there are roost trees nearby or a pond, maybe a corridor that doves are regularly using for flight paths. Those are the kinds of things that hunters should look for.”

Another good reason to scout ahead is that crops often change in fields from one year to another regardless of weather, said Mitch Miller, MDC wildlife regional supervisor for northwest Missouri. Crop rotations and other factors can lead to last year’s hotspot not being as attractive to doves this fall. Dove hunting should still be fair to good in the northwest region, Miller said, but spring weather did affect some plantings.

“It’s always prudent to scout ahead of the season,” he said.

MDC maintains a list of conservation areas with fields managed for dove hunting at mdc.mo.gov/node/8905. The website includes maps showing the locations of dove fields and the type of crop planted there. In western Missouri, many of the fields do have healthy sunflower crops. But hunters will find more fields than usual planted to other crops. Field conditions vary across the state’s western region due to weather.

Dove hunting is a popular kickoff for the autumn hunting seasons. Missouri’s dove season runs from Sept. 1 through Nov. 9. The daily limit is 15 and the possession limit is 45. For more information, go to mdc.mo.gov.

The James A. Reed Memorial Wildlife Area at Lee’s Summit will have dove hunting by managed hunt Sept. 3 through 9. Hunters are assigned to fields during the managed hunt and must register at headquarters. After Sept. 9, hunting is open with a daily hunt card until the close of the regular statewide dove season on Nov. 9. Shooting hours are from 1p.m. to sunset for the entire season. Call 816-622-0900 for more information on dove hunting at the Reed Area.

MDC bands 2,500 birds annually as part of a nationwide effort to create a dove management database. Hunters should report bands at reportband.gov, or by calling 800-327-BAND (2263).

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Conservation makes Missouri a great place to hunt and fish.