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Dove hunters searching for a place to hunt still have a few days to scout some fields for opening weekend, but the clock is ticking. In case you haven’t been able to find a location through private fields, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission prepares a few locations on public land for hunters who want to enjoy a first shot at the season.
This year’s summer drought conditions have left many planted public fields a bit sparse, but land managers have mowed the seed sources available and disked the fields to give doves some bare ground to work.
Many of the disked fields have also seen top-sown winter wheat seed to create food plots for deer. If the area does not see much rainfall between now and opening day, this seed also will attract doves. While baiting is illegal for migratory birds, top-sowing or aerially sowing wheat in fall is a normal agricultural operation, and as long as seeding rates fall into recommended rates prescribed by the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service, hunters are able to take advantage of the doves attracted to the fields. Once the seed germinates, it is no longer attractive to dove, but then becomes a good forage base for deer during the latter portion of deer season.
“Dove season is extremely popular for the first weekend or two, but then hunting effort drops sharply,” Garrick Dugger, AGFC assistant chief of wildlife management, said. “By timing our winter wheat plots, we’re able to give dove hunters some opportunity as well as provide some benefits for other wildlife.”
Hunters looking at one of the AGFC’s managed dove fields are encouraged to take an evening before the opener to find fields where doves are congregating and where to set up.
“Opening morning can be hectic, so don’t wait until then to see where you want to be,” Dugger said. “Head out now and get a feel for where the birds are flying so you know where to go first thing Saturday morning.”
Dugger says some of the fields, especially those with mowed crops, may attract birds for a few additional days, so visiting a few fields might be worthwhile for the hunter looking to stock up on some delicious doves.
Dugger says hunters chasing doves on AGFC WMAs also want to make sure to carry and use only steel shot on certain waterfowl-focused WMAs. The following WMAs now require steel shot for all migratory bird hunting (lead is still OK for squirrel, rabbit and quail): Bell Slough, Beryl Anthony Lower Ouachita, Big Lake, Camp Robinson, Cut-Off Creek, Cypress Bayou, Dave Donaldson Black River, Dr. Lester Sitzes III Bois d’Arc, Earl Buss Bayou DeView, Ed Gordon Point Remove, Frog Bayou, Galla Creek, Harris Brake, Henry Gray Hurricane Lake, Petit Jean River, Rex Hancock Black Swamp, Seven Devils, Steve N. Wilson Raft Creek Bottoms, Sheffield Nelson Dagmar, Shirey Bay Rainey Brake and Sulphur River WMAs.
Visit www.agfc.com/dove and click the “Public Dove Fields” link for a list of fields and maps to get you started on your search.