Mississippi’s serious dove hunters will get a bonus 20 days of shooting in the coming season, under a plan proposed by the Commission on Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks.

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has announced that it will allow a 90-day season framework for its Eastern Dove Management Unit, which includes all states east of the Mississippi River plus all of Louisiana, and will allow a 15-bird daily bag limit. The USF&WS initiated a National Strategic Harvest Management Plan, and began studying dove populations, hunting pressure and harvest numbers.

In 2008, the agency set interim harvest strategies with the intent of changing them in five years. The change came this spring. 

State wildlife commissioners could set its season within the Sept. 1-Jan. 15 framework, with a maximum of two zones and three season splits per zone. They were presented with a proposal by MDWFP biologists and technical staff at its May meeting, which was approved pending final USF&WS posting of the frameworks in the Federal Register.

Commissioners kept the North and South Zone system, with the South comprised of the areas south of U.S. Highway 84 and east of Mississippi Highway 35, and unanimously approved the following dates:

North Zone: Sept. 1-Sept. 21; Oct. 4-Nov. 9 and Dec. 15-Jan. 15.

South Zone: Sept. 13-Sept. 2; Oct. 4-Nov. 9 and Dec. 3-Jan. 15.

The Commission is expected to give final approval to the seasons at Tuesday’s June meeting in Jackson.

Dove hunters like the news, especially since most of the added days will be used later in the final season segment.

“This is great news,” said Tony Hankins of Grenada, who hunts as often as he can in the Delta. “I’m a member of two dove clubs and friends with guys who hunt in others and this is long overdue. I know that there aren’t that many of us hardcore dove hunters who would rather shoot dove than deer or duck hunt, but there are enough to make it important.

“The fact that we will have a full month in the Delta in December and January is outstanding. That’s when we really like to hunt. We don’t always see the number of birds that we have in September, because we’ve shot a lot of the native local dove. But we do see that influx of migrating doves and with food sources so limited by then, where you have food you can have great shooting. I’ve got enough places to hunt that at least one or two will hold doves.”

South Mississippi hunters bemoan the loss of the Labor Day Weekend opportunity, but because of the calendar they only lose one day.

“I’d probably be upset if it wasn’t for Labor Day being on Sept. 1,” said Billy Langford of Hattiesburg. “Since the season can’t open until Sept. 1 by rule, and Labor Day being on Monday the first, then there is no Labor Day dove weekend per se. And once that’s out, then why not wait two weeks and open later in September and give us more days in the second and third seasons.”