A major change in the federal migratory bird framework is giving Mississippi dove hunters additional opportunities to take the fast-flying birds this month. The season extends to Jan. 31, more than two weeks later than the previous required closure of Jan. 15.
“A lot of people may not understand the importance of the extension, but those of us who dove hunt religiously certainly do,” said Herb Phillips of Greenville. “To us, it’s not about quantity; instead it’s about quality. Some of the best dove hunting is late, kind of like duck hunting. It gives us more days to hunt when the migration has pushed more doves down to the Delta from the corn-belt states in the upper Midwest.
“But it also gives us the opportunity to find birds in concentrations. Food sources get scarce in the Delta; that means that the few places that have abundant food for doves will have a lot of doves. They aren’t as scattered as they can be in September and then the October-November dates. It can be the best hunting days you can get, once you find where they are feeding.”
Food sources can be anything from scheduled and manipulated plantings for doves, to natural or harvested seed or grain pushed by high waters following heavy rains.
“One of the best hunts we ever had in January was after a high-water event that pushed soybeans and Johnson grass seeds up on a ridge that ran through a soybean field,” said Bobby Hayes of Brandon. “We were in the Delta, and there was a high spot that ran the length of this huge rectangular field. When the water receded, it left a lot of seed and beans on that ridge.
“We didn’t have to hide or anything. It was food, and they had to eat, so they were coming whether or not we were shooting. They had no choice and this lasted for over two weeks right up until the last day of the season. It was a two-hour hunt, if that, and everybody got the limit.”
Mississippi’s daily limit is 15 doves per day, with a possession limit of 45.