- Dove Hunters Should Have Trigger Itch in Missouri
- Great Prospects – Add Considerations for Safety
A big plus for all dove hunters, the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) has a long-standing practice of managing hundreds of fields in statewide conservation areas for the benefit of doves and dove hunters.
Most of these fields are planted with sunflowers, but there are a good number of wheat, millet and buckwheat fields grown as well. Local weather determines when these fields get planted and mature. In good years, most are well along by mid-August, allowing managers to begin mowing a few rows each week. This puts seed on the ground and allows doves to establish the habit of visiting them daily. If that thought doesn’t make your trigger finger itch, you are not a dove hunter.
Good News First:
Hunters will find an abundance of doves flitting around the Show-Me State come September 1.
Those of us who rely on public land for doving need to hunt defensively and be prepared to act like adults when others don’t.
The good news of proper feed and dense repopulation is the reason for the caveat mentioned earlier. MDC dove fields draw a great number of hunters. My experience is that about one in 10 human beings is an idiot (sometimes I think I’m way too optimistic about human nature, but that’s a different topic). So, if 50 people join you in one of the MDC managed dove fields, chances are good that a few of them will not be the sharpest tacks on the bulletin board.
Doves are Prolific Breeders.
The rosy season forecast is predicated on the fact that doves are the rabbits of the feathered tribe. A pair of mourning doves can raise six broods of two chicks each during the nesting season, which starts as early as March. With even modest nesting success, this results in droves of young, naïve doves for hunters to pursue. Nesting conditions have been good this year, so there’s no reason to believe we won’t have the usual, bumper crop of doves.
Hunter Awareness is Necessary.
Lack of sharpness can exhibit itself in several ways. Several years ago, a friend and I were in a dove field at Plowboy Bend CA near Jamestown well before sunrise on opening day to stake out good spots. The shooting was predictably spectacular. About 30 minutes into shooting hours, a doofus strolled in and walked down the field about 30 yards in front of all the shooters already there. That would have been okay, but when he got in front of me a dove flew over and he shot it. I was still okay with that – barely, but then he proved he was part of the bottom 10 percent by plunking his stool down and making as if to settle in.
Patience is Key.
This led me to point out that his chosen spot put him in the line of fire of at least three other hunters. I refrained from also pointing out that besides being an idiot, he was incredibly rude. Anyway, he got the point and moved on.
Later that morning my hunting partner took a pellet to the neck. The shooter was far enough away that the strike barely broke the skin, drawing a small trickle of blood. But the implication was clear. One of our fellow hunters had taken a shot far too close to the horizon and in the direction of another hunter. It was time to leave, and we did.
The good news is that I have had more trouble-free hunts on public land than problematic ones. Furthermore, safety problems are most common when Sept. 1 falls on a weekend, drawing maximum crowds to managed dove fields. I refuse to hunt public fields on Saturday or Sunday openers. It isn’t just that the safety concerns increase with the number of hunters. I simply hate crowds. It’s just not worth the hassle to me, let alone the risk.
Fortunately, his year’s opener is on Thursday, so the number of hunters converging on dove fields will be relatively sensible. That said, you still will find lots of hunters on MDC fields on opening day. Here are a few thoughts on making your public-land hunt as safe and pleasant as possible.
Avoid the Most Popular Areas.
I always hunt close to home, so I don’t know which CAs have the biggest crowds outside of central Missouri. My guess is that the ones listed on MDC’s dove information page are near the top for attendance. Instead, I suggest that you use MDC’s list of managed dove fields to identify one on a smaller CA near you that has managed fields. The web page has maps showing the location of these fields. Scout a few ahead of time, so you know where you would like to be on opening morning and can find your way there in the dark.
Even the less popular areas can attract quite a few hunters. I suggest arriving at least an hour before shooting time. A headlamp is handy for alerting new arrivals to your location.
Set Ground Rules
Before the shooting starts, go around and introduce yourself to your hunting companions for the day. Gently point out safety risks to new arrivals who set up too close to others. Try to get everyone to agree not to take shows lower than 45 degrees above the horizon.
Dogs? Let Other Hunters Know
If you have a dog, share that with your group ahead of time and ask that no one ground-swat crippled doves. Offer the use of your dog to retrieve their cripples.
Wear Hunter Orange.
Doves react to motion, not color. Wearing a hunter-orange cap and vest isn’t going to hurt your hunting if you stand still and it certainly will alert other hunters to your location. Safety first.
Be the Adult.
Although it is tempting to read the riot act to unsafe hunters – that has always seemed dangerous to me, because idiots often also are belligerent and they have shotguns. Furthermore, it’s futile. You truly can’t fix stupid. So when things turn stupid, move or call it a day. Life is too short to waste time interacting with idiots.
Sign up for Managed Hunts at selected CAs. Dove hunting opportunities on these areas are allocated by daily drawings. You might not get in and if you do, you are assured that the number of hunters will be limited.
- James A. Reed near Kansas City – Call 816-622-0900 for details.
- Eagle Bluffs near Columbia – Call 573-815-7900.
- Ten Mile Pond near East Prairie – Call 573-649-9491.
- Otter Slough near Poplar Bluff – Call 573-290-5730.
- Marais Temps Clair near St. Louis – Call 314-877-6014.
At its best, dove hunting in Missouri is among the most exciting hunting of all options, offering action-packed outdoor activity. Don’t let a few knuckleheads keep you from enjoying it.
Be smart, play it safe, and you’ll be fine.