OUTDOORS: Only a month away

BILL WEHRLE, C-T/LCL Outdoors Sports Editor

By BILL WEHRLE, C-T/LCL Outdoors Sports Editor

Bill Wehrle column

Our weird weather this year – excessive spring cold, heavy rainfall in normally-dry July, and periods of unusual early hot weather – has caused “summer” to go by faster than usual, it seems.

Already the beginning of Missouri’s fall hunting – the Sept. 1 opener of dove season – is only a month away.

It’s time to check out potential dove hunting locations and I haven’t yet been out one time to scout for sunflower fields and corn that might be cut for silage. It’s time to get started.

By diligent scouting, hunters should be able to locate some fields where doves are gathering in large numbers to feed daily, either on a conservation area or on private land where you can get permission to hunt. Better line up several areas, as shooting soon causes doves to relocate.

Dove hunting regulations remain basically unchanged from 2020.

Shooting hours still are from a half-hour before sunrise until sunset. The daily limit is 15 and possession limit 45, which can be a combination of any of the three legal species – mourning doves, white-winged doves, and Eurasian doves.

Hunters locally shoot mostly  mourning doves, as Eurasian doves pretty much spend most of their time in town and white-wings are so rare around here that I’ve never seen one in the field. I’ve been told that dove hunters in southwest Missouri do shoot some white-wings, but they are mostly found in the southwestern United States, and are a popular game bird in Arizona and New Mexico.

There’s no limit on the number of shells you may shoot daily and sometimes it takes a lot of shells to down 15 doves, so take plenty with you.

A goal for many dove hunters is to bring in 15 doves while only shooting one box of shells (25). Some hunters accomplish this once in a while, but rarely does a hunter achieve this all the time.

Lead shotshells are permitted, except there is a non-toxic shot requirement on some conservation areas. Consult the Missouri Department of Conservation’s “Migratory Bird and Waterfowl Hunting Digest 2021-2022” for the areas that have this restriction.

Shotguns may not hold more than three shells, and decoys are allowed, but baiting is not. Electronic calls are prohibited.

It’s a good idea to get a (free) copy of the 2021-22 pamphlet anyway to be aware of the various rules and regulations for hunting doves, rails, snipe and waterfowl before going out hunting and possibly violating a rule you didn’t even know about.

A migratory bird hunting permit is required for dove hunting, except for hunters age 15 years or under. These young folks may hunt doves without any permit provided they are accompanied by a properly-licensed adult age 18 years or older who has a valid hunter education card or was born before 1/1/67, or if the young hunter has a valid hunter education card of his/her own.

Hunters over age 65 don’t need a small-game hunting permit, but must have a migratory bird hunting permit.

Doves are sporty, fast fliers and some clay-target practice ahead of time would help your hitting average.

I’ve heard that shotshells are becoming more available, so better lay in a good supply before the season starts.

Good hunting!

(Bill Wehrle’s “Outdoors” column now appears in the C-T every Saturday and LCL every Monday)