By BILL WEHRLE, C-T Outdoors Sports Editor
This summer’s screwed-up weather, with no rain and triple-digit temperatures pretty much eliminated any thinking about fall hunting for area outdoors people. But all of a sudden, the beginning of fall hunting for Missourians – the dove season opener – is less than a month away.
Soon it will be time to get your equipment in order for, hopefully, more super Missouri fall hunting.
There’s good and bad, hunting-wise, in a spring and summer with way above-normal temperatures and little or no precipitation.
It’s good that ground-nesting birds, like our beleaguered wild turkeys and bobwhite quail, finally had perfect weather during their nesting time and likely produced more young birds than they have in several years. I’ve heard great reports from landowners who have seen lots of young birds this summer, and maybe their population declines have turned around.
On the bad side, the drought-like conditions have sure ruined agricultural crops for most of this area’s farmers. Birds and many other wild creatures depend on leftover crops for much of their winter’s food, so pickings might be pretty slim for these critters. That will be a big problem if we have a bad winter. So far they’ve been getting along by eating insects and weed seeds, but these may run a little short come winter.
The desert-like weather has sure dried up most of this area’s wetlands, leaving migrating waterfowl with no place to settle in around here. If it doesn’t rain, duck hunting won’t amount to much in many of the usual hunting locations.
Doves are first on the fall hunting agenda, however, and on Sept. 1 their season will open as it has for many, many years.
This fall Iowa hunters will be allowed to hunt doves for just their second season and they will be allowed to use lead shot after one season of a total steel shot requirement. We can always hope that their hunting will cause some of these northern doves to migrate south to Missouri earlier than they usually do, and add to our local dove numbers for additional hunting opportunities.
This year’s dove regulations are the same as they’ve been for quite a while.
We’ll have a 70-day season from Sept. 1-Nov. 9, with a 15-dove daily limit and 30 allowed in possession. Three species of doves, mourning, Eurasian and white-winged, are legal game and their combined total counts toward your limit. Lead shot is allowed except on some conservation areas,, so check area regulations. Shooting hours are ½-hour before sunrise until sunset except on some conservation areas.
I look for dove hunting to be more challenging than usual.
Page 2 of 2 - Dove hunting is often more shooting than hunting once you find an agricultural field that they are using, usually in large numbers. With the lack of crops available due to the drought, there may be very few of these fields this fall.
Corn cut for silage is usually a mainstay for dove hunting, but there may not be any fresh-cut silage fields come Sept. 1. Much of this area’s corn has few or no ears with kernels, thus no dove food, and many of these fields are already cut and won’t attract doves next month. Harvested wheat fields also appear to have already been cleared of waste grain and are not attracting doves. MDC’s efforts at producing sunflowers also have been impacted by the hot, dry weather, and may not be the “hot spots” they often are.
We may have to resort to hunting waterholes and ragweed pastures to find doves, and a lot more scouting may be necessary to find any sort of a concentration of doves. Hopefully, the temperatures will drop below “blazing hot” before Sept. 1, but the forecasts are not very favorable.
The hot weather also has slowed my usual August activity of getting myself and Candy in shape for fall hunting, as I’m fearful that one or both of us may suffer from heat exhaustion if we go on our usual outings. Maybe August will be cooler and we can get out.
Likewise, the excessive heat has sure slowed my clay target shooting, and I’m not as “tuned up” as I’d like to be. Guess that gives me another excuse for missing those sporty little gray birds!
Bill Wehrle is outdoor sports editor of the Constitution-Tribune. His column appears in this space each Thursday.