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Iowa’s sunflower fields will be busy places over the next few weeks as doves begin to gather for migration and rows of sunflowers get mowed in preparation for the opening of dove hunting season.
Iowa’s dove hunting season begins Sept. 1. A list of wildlife areas that have one or more managed dove plots on them is available online at www.iowadnr.gov/doves.
Todd Bogenschutz, upland wildlife research biologist for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, said hunters should scout those areas ahead of time to learn how many doves are using the area and their flight patterns, and check if the area requires non toxic shot.
“Dove hunting has a social aspect to it and usually has a lot of action which makes it a great opportunity to include kids or novice hunters with the group,” Bogenschutz said. “When hunters are finished for the day, we would like to see them leave the area better than they found it by picking up all their shells and any other trash they find. We want to set a good example of taking care of our natural areas.”
The set up is pretty simple – bring a bucket, lots of shells, set up where doves are feeding or flying through and sit still. Doves will be active early and late in the day.
“Hilltops, wide open areas, areas with small grains like winter wheat, millet, oats, milo, or the pasture ground around watering ponds, silage fields or weedy areas are attractive to doves too,” Bogenschutz said. “And try to blend in to the background.”
Shooting hours are one half hour before sunrise to sunset. The daily bag limit is 15 doves with a possession limit of 45. Hunters are required to have registered with the harvest information program (HIP) before hunting migratory game birds.
An estimated 11,400 hunters harvested 117,000 doves in 2015.