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Mourning doves start hunt season

August 19, 2007|By BILL ANDERSON

Before there was a resident Canada goose season, mourning dove season in September was the first hunting season of the fall.

It's still tied for the earliest opener and this year will be a split season in Maryland.

The three segments run Sept. 1 to Oct. 13; Nov. 10-23 and Dec. 22 to Jan. 3, 2008. Shooting hours for the first segment are from noon until sunset, but move back to one-half hour before sunrise to sunset in the final two segments. The bag limit is 12 birds per day.

A large number of resident birds that live and nest in this area and most of the shooting opportunities in the early portion of dove season will be for resident birds. Later in the season, much of the shooting will be at birds that are migrating through the area on the way to warmer climates.

Dove hunting is one of the most popular bird hunting sports nationally, but it is only moderately popular in most of this region. There are more than enough birds here to present plenty of challenging shooting for those hunters who take part in the season.

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Many shotgunners consider dove shooting to be the toughest of the wing-shooting pursuits. Doves are really fast and fly erratically, making for some very tough shooting. To improve the odds, hunters usually use light loads and small shot to increase the number of pellets in the pattern. You will need all the help you can get.

The vast majority of the local shooting is passing shooting. As the name implies, passing shooting means hunters man shooting stations and fire as the doves fly past.

If you are like most of us, you will miss a lot more birds than you hit. Companies that manufacture shotgun shells love dove hunters.

Mark your fallen doves carefully because they can be hard to find if you are not hunting with a retriever.

The most obvious and productive areas for pass shooting include recently harvested grain fields, watering areas and roosting areas. One of my favorite areas in the late evening is to set up in pasture fields with large cedar trees. Doves like to roost in cedar trees.

Doves are migratory gamebirds and the season dates and regulations are set by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In Maryland, all migratory game bird hunters, including landowners who are license exempt, are required to obtain the HIP (Harvest Information Program) permit and the Maryland Migratory Game Bird Stamp in addition to a general hunting license.

Bill Anderson can be contacted via email at bill@weekend-sportsman.com

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