LITTLE ROCK (AGFC) – With dove hunting season beginning, a wise hunter will do some checking before the shooting starts.
This is not difficult, according to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.
You have a shotgun and ample ammunition. Is your hunting license current?
Doves are classified as migratory birds, meaning federal authorities set the general rules. You can't use a shotgun that holds more than three shells. Lead shot is allowed except on some federal wildlife refuges. You have to be HIP, meaning registered for the Harvest Information Program. This is free and can be done at any Game and Fish Commission office, license dealer or online at www.agfc.com.
A note of caution. You may be a guest at a dove field or you may be a paying client. If you go to hunt a place for the first time, check visually and ask verbally if it has been baited. This won't be a problem on the public lands but could be on some private tracts.
Legal dove field crop work includes:
Planting – Planting grain crops in a field that has been plowed and disked (including top-sown or aerially seeded wheat fields) is legal as long as seeding rates are in tune with extension service recommendations. It is illegal to seed the same field repeatedly, concentrate wheat in long rows or pile wheat on a field.
Harvesting – Harvesting a field often scatters some waste grain which attracts birds. If the harvest was conducted as normal agricultural operation, it is legal for doves.
Manipulation – Unharvested fields may be mowed, shredded, disked, rolled, chopped, trampled, burned or treated with herbicides. These fields may be hunted legally for doves.
Hogging down – Livestock may be allowed to graze on harvested and unharvested grain. These fields may be hunted legally for doves.
Many wildlife management areas of the Game and Fish Commission have dove hunting opportunities. Some have good numbers of doves and some not so good numbers. Some WMAs have fields with plantings aimed at doves but also used by other birds as well as animals. This was not a good year for some plantings. The AGFC said, "Unfortunately, the massive spring floods prevented many of the AGFC's sunflower fields from being planted for dove season. Some areas will still be seeded with winter wheat in August to provide additional dove hunting."
Dove fields on WMAs are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Here are a few:
* Mike Freeze Wattensaw WMA near Hazen – three fields (10 acres total)
* Steve N. Wilson Raft Creek Bottoms WMA near Georgetown – six fields (15 acres total)
* Prairie Bayou WMA near Lonoke -- one field (30 acres total)
* Hope Upland WMA – 11 fields (103 acres total)
* Rick Evans Grandview Prairie WMA – four fields (78 acres total)
This year's dove season dates are Sept. 3 through Oct. 30 and Dec. 26 through Jan. 6 statewide. Daily bag limit is 15, possession limit is 30, and there is no limit on Eurasian collared doves, an invasive species. Be sure you can identify these if you run across them. Shooting hours are 30 minutes before sunrise to sunset.