The Natural Resource Commission of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources took the first step toward a mourning dove season Wednesday, when commissioners approved the proposed rules on a 5-to-2 vote. Commissioners Elizabeth Garst and Janelle Rettig voted against the proposal.
The proposed rules will now be available for public comment before the commission votes on their final approval, probably in June. A public meeting has been scheduled for 1 p.m., May 24, in the fourth floor west conference room, Wallace Building in Des Moines.
The proposed season would begin Sept. 1, last for 70 days, have a daily bag limit of 15 doves, and possession limit of 30. The mourning dove season does not include Eurasian collard doves or white winged doves.
While the official rule making process is now under way, the Iowa DNR will be evaluating wildlife areas to potentially locate food plots that could enhance mourning dove hunting opportunities.
Since doves are native to every county in Iowa, hunters could also pursue doves on any of the public hunting wildlife areas.
Nationally, dove hunting is seen as important to the future of hunting because it is an easy sport to pick up, individuals with limited physical skills can participate even late into life, novices do not need expensive equipment and there is an easy learning curve. A bonus is that the September to early November season would offer good weather.
The Iowa DNR, through almost 40 years of research, has stated there is no biological reason not to allow dove hunting as it is classified as a migratory game bird and is the number one game bird in the country, with an estimated population of nearly 500 million individuals. It is the only game bird found in all of the lower 48 states and is a resident of every county in Iowa.
Mourning doves annual mortality rate is 6 out of 10, of which hunters account one and disease, weather and predators account for the other five. About 1 million hunters in the U.S. harvest between 17-20 million birds each year, which is about 5-7 percent of the population. Doves offset this high death rate with a high birth rate.
In other news, commissioners unanimously approved a three year pilot program that would provide wildlife habitat on private land to landowners who voluntarily enrolled.
The voluntary program run by the DNR would create, manage and enhance wildlife habitat on private land in exchange for allowing public access for hunting.
Landowners who chose to participate could begin enrolling in the program as early as this summer. Contracts would last from 3 to 10 years, and the land enrolled in the program would likely have signs posted, and maps to the location available on the DNR's website.
Funding for this program is through a Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program Grant awarded to the DNR by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as well as from wildlife habitat fees designated by law for the development of public hunting opportunities.