Mississippi wildlife officials had a lot more to deal with Wednesday (July 17) than just an odd calendar while considering options for the 2013-14 dove hunting seasons.
They also had several dove hunters in the room who came asking for something the Commission on Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks took away from them a year ago — January opportunity.
“Last year, the season closed on Dec. 31 and that eliminates what we feel is some of the best hunting we have every year,” said Tom Brooks of Harrisville, who was joined by several other members of the Cole Lake Dove Club of Isola. “Days were taken away from the late season and shifted to the earlier seasons.
“It is our observation that we don’t get the migration of the bigger, fatter doves from the upper Midwest until January. They eat their way down the corn belt and by the time they get here they are big and fat with these long tail feathers. They almost look like pigeons. If we can’t hunt in January, then we miss out on the best shot at those migratory birds.”
The Commission listened, biologists agreed and the hunters were left satisfied. Hunters in the North Zone will get 12 days in January this winter.
The proposed seasons include:
North Zone — Sept. 1-Sept. 22; Oct. 12-Nov. 4; and Dec. 20-Jan. 12.
South Zone — Sept. 1-Sept. 9; Oct. 5-Nov. 4; and Dec. 14-Jan. 12.(The South Zone will include only that area south of U.S. Highway 84 and east of Mississippi Highway 35.)
Wildlife officials were already faced with a difficult calendar situation relating to dove frameworks, which allows a 70-day season that can begin no earlier than Sept. 1, end no later than Jan. 15 and have no more than two splits creating three segments.
The Saturday prior to Labor Day is the traditional opening of the dove season, allowing a three-day weekend of shooting. This year, Labor Day Monday is Sept. 2.
“We are proposing a Sunday opening day,” said biologist Ed Penny, who added that because of the Sabbath, legal hours would not start until 2 p.m. on that day only. Other quirks in the North Zone schedule include a Monday close to the middle segment and a Friday start to the third segment.
Both zones will have a 15-bird daily bag limit, that includes both mourning and white-winged doves — the non-native collared doves are legal and do not count against the limit. The possession limit was increased at the federal level for most migratory birds to three times the daily limit.
Delta hunters also got confirmation of increased teal opportunity in the September season. The 16-day season, proposed for Sept. 14-29, will include a 6-bird daily limit. That is an increase of two teal per day. “I’d heard something about that and even though it wasn’t mentioned during the season-setting today, I’m glad to hear it’s included,” said Greg Burton of Isola. “That gives our hunters more encouragement to hunt, and more importantly more incentive to prepare good waterfowl habitat.”
Other early migratory bird seasons proposed Wednesday include:
Early Canada goose — Sept. 1-Sept. 15.
Teal — Sept. 14-Sept. 29.
Rail, moorhen, gallinules — Sept. 14-Nov. 22.
Snipe — Nov. 14-Feb. 28.
Unofficial duck seasons set
The Commissioners also proposed conditional dates for the duck and goose seasons.
“Of course, all of that is conditional since the federal frameworks have not yet been announced,” said Chad Dacus, the director of wildlife for the MDWFP. “Once they are announced, and if the seasons selected today are within those frameworks, then they will be official.”
Duck — Nov. 22-Nov. 24; Nov. 29-Dec. 1; and Dec. 4-Jan. 26.
Goose — Nov. 14-Dec. 26.
Conservation order on light geese — Oct. 1-Nov. 13; Jan. 27-31; and Feb. 2-March 31.
Limits on duck and geese will be set when the federal frameworks are announced.
At the beginning of Wednesday’s commission meeting, Clay Wagner of Kiln was sworn in to begin his five-year term representing south and coastal Mississippi. He replaces Jerry Munro of Biloxi, whose term ended June 30.
“I am a banker from Kiln, and I was born and raised in Bay St. Louis,” said Wagner, 52, who said he was an avid sportsman who enjoys hunting and fishing with his children. “I am looking forward to this opportunity of serving with this commission and with this agency, and I care about our wildlife and fishery resources.”
John Stanley of Corinth has taken over as chairman of the commission, replacing Monro in that role.
In another personnel matter, new fisheries director Larry Pugh confirmed Wednesday that Larry Bull has been confirmed as assistant fisheries director.
Licenses yield good news
The agency’s final license report from the 2013 fiscal year, which ended June 30, gave commissioners some good news — a $157,000 increase in revenue over the previous year.
“It was our best year in the last five years,” said Stanley, as he perused the report. “That we are holding good over $17 million and increasing is a very positive situation.”