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Driftwood outdoors: Hunting for dove fun, challenging

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The mourning dove is Indiana’s most popular migratory game bird. Its population, both nationwide and in Indiana, is stable with no evidence of a change in abundance.

Dove hunting is an exhilarating experience and a sound wildlife management practice. They taste pretty darned good, too.

Dove season opens in Indiana on Sept. 1. There is a daily bag limit of 15 and a possession limit of 45. Since it is one of the first hunting seasons to open each fall, dove hunting is somewhat of a kickoff for fall hunting season.

Dove hunting is a great means of introducing youth to hunting since it doesn’t require sitting still for hours and the action can be fast and furious. To ensure dove hunting opportunities exist for youths around the state, the Indiana DNR offers public land dove hunting.

You can hunt doves on public land around the state or on private land you have permission to access.

Dove hunting is simple. Hitting them in flight is not. As far as guns go, any 12-, 16-, or 20-gauge shotgun will work. Take plenty of shells with you because you’ll need more than you think. Size 7½ or 8 shot will suffice for loads.

Mourning doves congregate in agricultural fields of sunflowers, wheat, millet and buckwheat. In drought-prone years, corn chopped for ensilage provides crop residue that attracts doves.

Situate yourself and other hunters on the edge of a crop field edge with the sun at your back. Doves are hard enough to hit without blinding yourself by looking into the sun. Stay low and break up your outline the best you can, and don’t move until you’re ready to shoot.

Once you have shot a bird, visually follow it to the ground. Mark the spot you saw the bird fall. Call the field cold, meaning no one shoots, and retrieve your dove right away.

These little birds can be hard to locate, so thinking you can shoot three and find them all is a dangerous idea. No one wants to waste game, so do the ethical thing and retrieve immediately following your kill. A good retrieving dog makes dove hunting an even more enjoyable experience.

Goose Pond Fish and Wildlife Area near Linton is comprised of 8,064 acres of prairie and marsh habitat. It is one of the premier dove hunting public lands around.

Portions of the property are planted specifically for dove habitat. There are draws for hunting opportunities on Goose Pond, and check-in is always required for hunting. To learn more about the dove hunting opportunities at Goose Pond, contact the office at 812-659-9901.

Dove hunters must have a valid hunting license, as well as a HIP registration and Indiana Game Bird Habitat Stamp. Anyone born after Dec. 31, 1986, must be hunter education certified.

Dove hunting is one more way to enjoy the great outdoors in Indiana. The season opens early, and the birds offer plenty of action. So take your son or daughter, grandson or granddaughter, niece or nephew, or even the neighbor down the street and get outside and into a dove field.

Just remember to bring plenty of shells.

See you down the trail.

Brandon Butler’s outdoors column appears Saturdays in the Daily Journal. Send comments to letters@dailyjournal.net.

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