Dove hunting in December

LITTLE ROCK (AGFC) – In December, deer hunting continues in many parts of Arkansas, and duck hunting is approaching its peak.
      Contrary to perception, dove hunting can be much more than that first weekend of the season in early September. The second segment of the season opens Dec. 26 and runs through Jan. 6.
      This time of the year, Arkansas-hatched doves are joined by migrants from the north, and they tend to bunch up. The one-, two- and three-dove groups that were usual in September are now 10, 20, 30 in number. 
      Snow covering ground and food sources pushes northern doves to the south, just as it does the ducks. The migrants tend to move in bunches. Their food, like with the resident Arkansas doves, is primarily seeds of many types, and leftovers from soybean and corn harvesting can be found by the birds.
      Fields of young winter wheat also draw doves. One Arkansas farmer commented that wheat seeds that don't sprout may be on top of the ground and good pickings for doves and other birds.
      Food for these winter doves comes from natural sources, too. Brushy areas have seeds, and they are abundant along large and small waterways – creeks, rivers and lakes.
      The migrant doves offer the same challenges to hunters that resident birds do. They can be tricky, zigging and zagging just when shotgun triggers are pulled.
      The daily limit on doves is 15. A bit of caution for hunters who may double up on duck and dove hunting in December: Be careful with your lead loads in shotgun shells. Don't leave the lead loads in pockets when you go back to duck hunting. It is against federal and state regulations to have lead shot in your possession while waterfowl hunting. But steel waterfowl loads are legal to hunt doves, although steel dove load sizes are sometimes difficult to find. The bigger shot reduces chances of hitting doves, along with the higher cost involved.