Steven Noll is a Wildlife Management Biologist for the Department of Conservation responsible for public land management in Howard and Saline Counties.
The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) has prepared numerous dove fields in the Boonville and Columbia vicinity for the 2014 dove season, opening Sept. 1. Franklin Island Conservation Area (CA)—in Howard County—has four fields of sunflowers that are in very good condition, with limited mowing beginning about two weeks prior to the season. Additionally wheat or fallow corn from 2013 will be burned down with herbicide to allow the seed to sit on top of bare ground to facilitate dove feeding.
Just down stream on the Missouri River from Franklin Island, Diana Bend Conservation Area also offers excellent hunting opportunity for these fast flying targets. Four sunflower fields, as well as three mowed or burned wheat plots, will offer ample space for hunters to spread themselves out and enjoy fall's first opener of the year.
Nearby, Davisdale and Moniteau Creek Conservation Areas have nearly a dozen sunflower fields. Our sunflower fields in general got off to an excellent start with great conditions for early planting and I am very proud of the condition they are in now. This year weed control has been very good within the crop, so plenty of bare ground exists to encourage dove use in all dove fields. Besides providing seed laying on bare ground within standing sunflower rows, the Department also mows a portion of many fields to offer additional feeding locations. This makes it easier for hunters to find downed doves.
The Conservation Department wants to be sure hunters put safety first while dove hunting on Conservation Areas. Things to keep in mind when hunting near others include maintaining safe spacing of at least 50 yards between hunters. If you can't find a spot with this spacing, wait at the entrance to the field until another hunter leaves and take his or her place. Also, it is always a good idea to arrive early enough to talk with other hunters before shooting time. Find out who has hunting dogs, and agree on safe zones of fire.
It's also important to take other hunters' presence into account when choosing shots at doves. Don't take low-angle shots that could send pellets toward other hunters. Wear shooting or safety glasses to protect your eyes from any stray shot, and warn nearby hunters before leaving your location or sending your dog to retrieve downed birds.
The 2014 dove hunting season runs through Nov. 9. The daily limit is 15, and the possession limit is 45. All hunters age 16 through 64 must buy a small-game hunting permit to pursue doves. Dove hunters 16 and older also must have a Missouri Migratory Bird Hunting Permit. Additional details about dove hunting are contained in the 2014 Migratory Bird Hunting Digest, which is available at Conservation Department offices, permit vendors, or at mdc.mo.gov/node/2454.
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