Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Plant Proper Fields for Upcoming Dove Season

MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Dove hunting season is quickly approaching, and many Mississippians are eager to participate in the traditions of family and fellowship involved in hunting the nation’s No. 1 game bird.

But before dove hunters take to the fields, they should be aware of certain regulations.
The vast majority of Mississippi’s sports enthusiasts hunt on legal fields, but some hunters engage in a practice known as baiting. Baiting is considered spreading grain not normally sown in fall, piling up long rows of grain, providing rock salt and maintaining grain in different stages of growth.

Adam Tullos, who specializes in wildlife management with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said there are ways for hunters to find out whether a field is baited. Hunters need to ask about field preparation before opening day on Sept. 1.

“When hunters step out on a dove field, there are three questions they should ask themselves and whoever prepared the field,” Tullos said. “First, do you know if this field is baited? Secondly, they should ask, is the field baited? Lastly, they should look to see if the field is baited. To sum up, did you know, did you ask, and did you look?”

Scott Baker, wildlife biologist with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, said that laws regulating dove field preparation allow manipulation of planted and natural crops. These methods are often done by bush hogging, burning and disking.

“Good dove hunting is frequently found where grain and other food is distributed in the ordinary course of farming activities,” Baker said. “Doves may be legally hunted where grain or other food is standing or has been manipulated in the field where grown. Additionally, doves may be hunted where the crop is grown for them or other wildlife. Corn, browntop millet and sunflowers are among the crops that can be used in a field if they would normally be harvested during that time.”

Baker said there are options for hunters who did not prepare dove fields for this season.

“There are 52 state wildlife management areas across Mississippi, and most of them allow dove hunting. There are 6 dove fields across the state enrolled in our Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks Private Lands Dove Field Program,” Baker said. “Hunting on these fields is by permit only and costs $100-105 each, depending on the field. They do allow hunting for multiple days during the first two dove seasons.”

Dave Godwin, a wildlife biologist with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, said that any baited area is still considered baited for 10 days after the complete removal of all crops that are not within normal agricultural practices. Baiting is a rare occurrence, and most individuals follow the rules that have been written for dove hunting.

“This rule recognizes that removing the bait does not remove the
lure created, and that doves will still be attracted to an area even after the bait is gone,” Godwin said. “Hunting over, around or near a baited area at any time during the 10 day period after the removal of all bait is illegal.”

Godwin said the rules are not complicated, and in his 23 years of hunting, he has never seen anyone ticketed who did not clearly know they were baiting.

“Dove hunting is extremely popular among Mississippi hunters,” he said. “The hunts are usually very social events, with long-standing traditions in many areas of the state. It’s second only to squirrels in the number of hunters.”

For information about public dove hunting opportunities provided by the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, visit http://www.mdwfp.com. MSU Extension Publication 2111, “Supplemental Wildlife Food Planting Manual for the Southeast,” is available at msucares.com.

By Brittany Jacks
MSU Ag Communications