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Anticipation grows as dove season nears

OUTDOORS -

August 10, 2008|By BILL ANDERSON

For decades, hunters have looked forward to the arrival of September because it means the beginning of dove season.

This fall, the tradition continues with the opening of dove season on Sept. 1.

The season will once again feature multiple segments. The first runs from Sept. 1 to Oct. 11. The second begins Nov. 15 until Nov. 28 and the season closes with the third segment, running from Dec. 20 to Jan. 3, 2009.

Shooting hours are noon to sunset for the first segment. Shooting hours for the rest of the season run from one-half hour before sunrise to sunset.

There are many resident doves in this area and most shooting opportunities in the early days of the season will be of those birds or the ones that have nested here. As the season goes on, more of the shooting will be at birds migrating through the area on the way to warmer climates.

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Nationally, dove hunting is one of the most popular hunting sports. The sport is only moderately popular in Western Maryland, but has a large following on the Eastern Shore. It gives local hunters more than enough birds to offer plenty of challenging shooting.

Most bird hunting authorities consider dove shooting to be the toughest of the wingshooting sports. Doves are very fast fliers and they seem to have an ability to dodge and weave erratically. It makes for very challenging shooting.

To improve the odds, dove hunters usually use light loads and small shot which increases the number of pellets in the pattern. If you are like most, you will need all the coverage you can get.

The most popular method of hunting doves is pass shooting. Pass shooting is when hunters station near areas where doves are flying and shoot at them, following the motion of their flight. Most of us miss a lot more birds than we hit, making the sport a favorite with ammo manufacturers.

The typical sites for pass shooting stations include recently harvested grain fields, watering areas and roosting areas. Doves like to roost in cedar trees. Pasture fields with cedars can be good spots in the late evening.

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 a Harvest Information Program permit and the Maryland Migratory Game Bird Stamp in addition to a general hunting license.

Bill Anderson writes a weekly outdoors column for The Herald-Mail. He can be reached by e-mail at bill@weekend-sportsman.com

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