When state wildlife officials saw the need for public dove hunts comparable to the type of shooting found on private land properly managed for the birds, they turned to the experts — private land owners.

Combining the talents of biologists from the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks with those of farmers throughout the state, the agency’s Private Lands Dove Program has produced quality hunting for the past nine years.

This year, the 10th of the program headed by Scott Baker, should be no different. There are seven fields included, although two in the North Zone are already sold out. The popularity of the program and the fact that there are many repeat customers is all the proof Baker needs to know the system is working.

“We have hunters that return each year since the program started in 2004,” Baker said. “The new hunters and repeat hunters often tell us they appreciate the hunting opportunity on these fields. They like the oversight the MDWFP provides for safety and knowing the field has been prepared legally.  

“The permits are comparable, maybe even cheaper than a pay hunt fee, but you get multiple days of hunting over the first two seasons as compared to a pay hunt’s single day or weekend fee.”   

Hunting is allowed beginning at noon on Saturdays, Mondays and Wednesdays during the first two seasons.

North Zone fields include the sold-out fields in Tate and Prentiss counties, plus fields in Copiah, Kemper and Rankin counties. The two South Zone fields are in Jones and Pearl River counties.

Baker said permits are selling quickly, and “the Jones County field only as a couple of spots left.”

Program fields are designed, planted and manipulated by landowners with help from biologists who make sure small grain crops attractive to doves, like sunflowers, browntop millet and corn, are used.

Hunters have different options for entering the program. Permits for individual fields start at $100. Membership level permits, which offer shooting at all fields, are priced at $200 with opening week privileges and $150 without first week privileges. The revenue is used to offset the lease agreement with landowners.

More information can be found and permits purchased on the MDWFP’s website at mdwfp.com/wildlife-hunting/dove-program or information is available by calling Baker at (601) 432-2229.