If a hunter visited a field every day of dove season and killed a limit every day, what would he or she end up having?
If you said anything other than a horribly sore shoulder, you didn’t think it through.
Over a 90-day season, a hunter killing the 15-bird limit would have 1,350 birds, which, of course, would be a lot of good eating. But that would likely be earned by burning about 2,500 shells, or 100 boxes of No. 7½ or No. 8 shot. That’s 10 cases, and that’s being extremely conservative, because who among us can average better than two shots per bird over the course of a season?
Certainly not this writer — only once have I limited within a box of shells, and that was in the 1990s when the daily limit was 12, and I think the last two or three birds died of shock.
Due to more liberal limits and longer seasons, every hunter has more than a fair chance of enjoying grilled or fried dove breasts, and/or having dove popper appetizers for tailgating or holiday meals — they are the best.
“All that you need to get your fill of doves is a decent field that somebody, somewhere, put a lot of time, love and care into preparing,” said Ron Thomas of Madison, an avid dove hunter who hunts all three segments of the North Zone season. “There’s 10 of us that do exactly that, on five or six fields, every year in the Delta. We lease little 3-, 4- and 5-acre fields in different areas, on farms, and we plant sunflowers and soy beans in the spring and manipulate those crops with the sole intent and goal of attracting and holding doves.
“We can hunt two or three times a week in the opening season and have great hunting. We rotate the fields so we’re not always worrying about burning up a field, and there’s enough shooting throughout the Delta to keep the birds moving.”
Thomas said that the first season is the least important one of the year for him and his buddies. It’s the second and third seasons when their hard work is intended to produce the best results.
“By then, if you have a credible food source for doves, they’ll come, and you will have the best shooting of the year,” he said. “The second season is the toughest for most clubs, even if they did some prepping. The trouble is, the farmers have been pulling corn and pulling beans, and there’s a lot of scrap on the ground for the birds. They don’t concentrate as much. But if you have the food there, especially sunflowers, surrounded by rows that the farmers have cleared, then you are going to have birds.
“Now the third season, that’s when we really love to shoot. We get those waves of migrating birds from the Midwest, fat birds who have been eating corn all year. If there’s an early winter up north and they get pushed down to join the native birds that survived all the shooting, it can be great —really, really great. We make sure we have plenty of food for them. Food sources are scarce, and if they find a source, like our fields, they will continue to come to it even if we hunt it every day. They have to eat.”
The smaller South Zone season is also 90 days, and the later the season, the better.
“I am so happy that our third and final season is 43 days,” said Mac Graham of Hattiesburg. “But I’m happiest that our final season goes all the way to Jan. 31. That’s the best thing that’s happened to us. We will have a better opportunity; that’s for sure. Birds that fly south hit the Gulf and turn around, so we do have some good hunting in January. Our first season is only 15 days, but really, that’s more than plenty. If we have birds then, they get scarce as all get out, literally, after a day or two of shooting. They get out of the area pretty quickly.”
A chance to load up
Hunters who need to stock up on shells for dove season — or ammunition for any season — have a brief, tax-free weekend to get good deals. Mississippi’s three-day “Second Amendment Tax Free Holiday” is Aug. 30-Sept. 1.
Certain purchases will be exempt from state sales tax at hundreds of stores statewide. Exempt items include archery equipment, firearms, firearm and archery cases, firearm and archery accessories, hearing protection, holsters, belts, ammunition and slings. Items like clothing, stands, and calls are not exempt
For a complete list of exempt and non-exempt items, visit the Mississippi Department of Revenue online at www.dor.ms.gov/Pages/Mississippi-Second-Amendment-Weekend-Guidance.aspx.
2019-20 Dove seasons
- North Zone: Sept. 1-Oct. 6; Oct. 19-Nov. 6; Dec. 21-Jan. 14 (total of 90 days).
- South Zone (area south of U.S. Highway 84, and east of Mississippi Highway 35): Sept. 1-15; Oct. 5-Nov. 6; Dec. 21-Jan. 31 (total of 90 days).
- Limits: 15 daily, 45 in possession.