They may be part of the migratory bird hunting season structure, but two of the three September migratory seasons put resident doves and Canada geese in serious jeopardy.
“I’d bet that over 95 percent of the doves we kill in September are birds that never leave Mississippi,” said Phillip Thomas of Greenwood, an avid dove and waterfowl hunter. “October and November, yeah, we get some bigger migratory doves, but really, it’s the third and final season in December and January before the migrators really get here and start showing up in the harvest. But in September, it’s all resident birds, and the vast majority of them are less than a year old.
“And, I’d bet that 100 percent of the Canada geese taken during the special early season (Sept. 1-15) are resident geese who suddenly find their rather sedate, almost tame existence upended — at least those that live outside urban areas.”
Even though it starts a day later than the goose season, it’s the dove season that is considered the true start to the annual hunting season in Mississippi.
“That’s always been the case,” Thomas said. “I might know maybe a handful, no more that 10 guys, who hunt Canada geese in September, and I know a lot of wing-shooters. But everybody I know who hunts will go dove hunting. I’ve been driving around the Delta a lot on business, and I can already tell that we’re going to have a great season. I am seeing doves all over the Delta, wads of them. If they aren’t buzzing the grain fields, they’re sitting on the power lines. We should have a pretty good season, based on that. Last year was one of my best dove seasons ever, and I’m seeing more doves now than I did a month before last year’s season opened.”
Thomas is more of a waterfowl hunter than anything else, but the one season he doesn’t take advantage of is the one for September Canada geese.
“It’s just not sporting to me, because the places I can hunt them, they are like domesticated ducks and geese,” he said. “Not much sport in walking down to a lake and saying, ‘Here goosey goosey,’ like you’re going to feed them and then pulling up a shotgun and blasting away. That’s how a lot of those Canada geese are. That’s not fun, because in the right situation I can get a five-goose limit with no more than one or two shots with my 12-gauge. And, I hate eating geese.
“Doves … just the opposite. I love to eat those little boogers, and I love the challenge of hitting them as they dip and dive through a field. That’s some sport right there. Almost like teal hunting.”
Teal, mainly the blue-winged variety, are also legal in September, which is the peak of their migration period.
“I’ll start teal hunting in the mornings on Sept. 9 and push all my dove hunting back later in the day,” Thomas said. “Teal are probably my most-favorite flying target. They dip and dive just like a dove, but only quicker. They eat similarly to a dove, but only more of it.”
Three other migratory birds have September seasons in Mississippi: gallinule, rails and moorhens. Mostly overlooked, such shorebirds are fun to hunt and delicious to eat.
September 2017 migratory seasons
Early Canada goose: Open Sept. 1-15. Limit: 5 daily, 15 in possession.
Dove, North Zone: First season open Sept. 2, closes Oct. 8. Other seasons are Oct. 21-Nov. 4 and Dec. 9-Jan. 15. Limits: 15 daily, 45 in possession.
Dove, South Zone: First season open Sept. 2-10. Other seasons are Oct. 7-Nov. 11, and Dec. 2-Jan. 15. Limits: 15 daily, 45 in possession.
Teal: Open Sept. 9-24. Limits: 6 daily, 18 possession.
Moorhens and gallinules: Opens Sept. 2, closes Nov. 10. Limit 15 daily in aggregate, 45 in possession in aggregate.
Rails, clapper and king: Opens Sept. 2, closes Nov. 10. Limit 15 daily in aggregate, 45 in possession in aggregate.
Rails, sora and Virginia: Opens Sept. 2, closes Nov. 10. Limit 25 daily in aggregate, 75 in possession in aggregate.