Many Mississippi dove hunters are mistakenly still planning their opening day morning hunt ritual, an annual celebration of the return of the hunting season.

They apparently overlooked one important fact when the state’s Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks Commission last month announced the 2013 dove season. Because opening day falls on a Sunday, legal hours were pushed back to 2 p.m. for that day.

“I dang sure missed that,” said Jimmy Turner of Greenwood, who had already printed his invitations for his annual hunt when he learned of the change. “I’m glad my buddy called me and told me. That certainly changes things.”

Because of a freak calendar, the Commission found itself in an odd situation. 

* Federal frameworks do not allow a dove season to start before Sept. 1, which this year falls on a Sunday. 

* Labor Day, always a big part of the traditional opening, is Monday Sept. 2.

* Sunday is a last-resort choice for the opening of any season. In fact, Mississippi law requires changes in the seasons if an opening date of a deer season falls on a Sunday.

* To keep a Saturday opening day, that would mean having to forego the Labor Day weekend entirely and waiting a week.

The Commission saw only one alternative, with a tweak.

“By choosing Sunday, we felt it was only fair to move the starting time back to accommodate all hunters,” said Commission Chairman John Stanley, obviously referring to those attending church in the morning.

Turner certainly understands.

“We always hunt Saturday mornings and then Sunday afternoons, after church, all season,” he said. “Most of us go to church, and our best and biggest field is just down the road from a small country congregation. Another group has a field on the other side of the church. 

“I doubt seriously (the congregation) would want to conduct their services amid shotgun blasts. I know I wouldn’t. I guess I should have thought about that. It’s common sense.”

Turner said the change raises concerns regarding retrievers.

“About half our guys have labs to retrieve doves; it’s the biggest part of the hunt for them,” he said. “That’s why they like the morning hunts so much, because the heat isn’t so bad on the dogs. The afternoon hunts are a lot tougher. We are making plans now to put out a few blow-up wading pools with ice blocks for the dogs.”

After opening day, legal hours shift back to 30 minutes prior to sunrise.

Private lands, public dove hunts

The Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks will have seven fields open as part of its Private Lands Dove Hunting Program for 2013, five in the North Zone and two in the South.

North fields include one each in Copiah, Kemper, Pontotoc, Rankin and Tate counties.

South fields will be in Jones and Pearl River counties.

Hunting will be allowed on Saturdays, Mondays and Wednesdays only, beginning at noon, during the first two dove seasons set for each zone. Maps of the hunts, regulations and information on how to apply can be found online at www.mdwfp.com/wildlife-hunting/dove-program.aspx.

Permits are $100 for all fields except Kemper, where the fee is $105. Dove Club permits, valid on all fields, are available at two levels, $150 without opening weekend privileges or $200 with opening weekend privileges.

Youth dove hunts

Hunters aged 15 and under can apply for special dove hunts to be held Sept. 2 at Black Belt Prairie Wildlife Management Area and on Sept. 14 at Mahannah WMA. 

Children can begin applying immediately and applications will be accepted through Aug. 30.

Hunters will be able to shoot clay pigeons before the hunt and lunch will be provided. For information, visit mdwfp.com.

Commercial speck season ends Saturday

Mississippi’s Department of Marine Resources announced this week that the commercial season speckled trout will end at 12:01 a.m. Saturday (Aug. 10) in the state’s territorial waters.

DMR officials have determined that the annual commercial quota of 50,000 pounds has been met.

Apply for draw hunts

Applications are being accepted during August for all WMA deer draw hunts except at Canemount WMA, where the process begins Aug. 30 and ends Sept. 10.

Teal hunt applications are also being accepted through Aug. 15 and rabbit hunt draw are open through Oct. 15.

Visit mdwfp.com for details.