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Iowa’s dove hunting season is just around the corner and hunters getting ready to pursue the country’s most popular game bird are encouraged to visit the areas they plan to hunt before opening day.
“Investing some time in preseason scouting will benefit the hunter by seeing which fields the doves are using, and what condition the field is in,” said Todd Bogenschutz, upland wildlife research biologist for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. “Just because the area had a food plot on it last year, doesn’t necessarily mean that it will again this year.”
The Iowa DNR has a listing of state-managed public wildlife areas with food plots specific to doves at www.iowadnr.gov/doves. Each area is linked to a downloadable and printable pdf that includes a map, any special regulations, and the local contact name and phone number. Hunters may also want to visit the Hunting Atlas at www.iowadnr.gov/hunting when looking for areas to hunt.
If hunters are planning to try dove hunting on private land, they should look for grazed pastures with a pond, feedlots, or harvested crop fields, seed corn or small grain fields, basically any area with abundant bare ground, he said.
“There can be some good opportunities on these private areas if hunters have permission to access them,” he said.
While most of the hunting takes place in early morning, it’s not the only time when doves fly.
“There are good opportunities to hunt in the evening, but be sure to be out there a few hours before sunset because the flight is usually over at sundown,” Bogenschutz said.
There are other benefits to hunting late afternoon, like significantly few hunters vying for the same spot.
“Doves provide a lot of excitement for hunters of all skill levels and are a great way to bring in new or young hunters. It’s easy to do and there are no special decoys or camouflage necessary,” he said. “Anecdotally, we are seeing doves here in good numbers, and I expect hunters will have similar success as last year.”
Hunters are required to have a valid hunting license and habitat stamp to hunt doves. Iowa does not require a migratory game bird fee. Dove season is Sept. 1 to Nov. 29, with a daily bag limit of 15 doves, and possession limit of 45. Legal shooting hours are from one-half hour before sunrise to sunset. Shotguns must be plugged to hold no more than three shells at a time.
Last year, 13,800 hunters harvested an estimated 131,000 doves.
Hunters will need to register with Harvest Information Program before hunting doves and other migratory birds. Go to www.iowadnr.gov and click on Buy a Hunting or Fishing License link then follow the prompts to get to the screen with a link to register to hunt doves.