MOURNING DOVE

The oldest mourning dove on record was over 30 years old when it was harvested in Florida in 1998. It was banded in Georgia in 1968. (Photo/Terry Johnson)

The opening day of dove season is one of the most eagerly anticipated days on the calendar of Monroe County hunters. This year opening day falls on Saturday, Sept. 3.

For the third year in a row, the 90-day season is divided into three segments. The first stage runs for 16 days that extend from Sept. 3-18. The second portion of the season is 21 days long and takes place Oct. 8-28. The last and longest segment (53 days) stretches from November-Jan. 15.

As has been the case since 1981, the daily bag limit on mourning and white-winged doves is 15. Keep in mind that any Eurasian collared-doves that you harvest do not count against your daily bag.

It should be noted that both federal and state laws prohibit the killing of ground doves. Although rare locally, these extremely small doves do occasionally fly into Monroe County dove fields.

Legal shooting hours extend from a half hour before sunrise to sunset every day during the season except on opening day. On Sept. 3, legal shooting hours begin at noon.

If you don’t want to risk having a case made against you for beginning your dove hunt too early, or ending it too late, it is best to check the official times for sunrise and sunset before you begin hunting. Sunrise and sunset times are available on the Outdoors GA app (available free on ITunes or in the Google Play store) or at http://aa.usno.navy.mil.

If you shoot a banded dove, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service urges you to report the band number. The number can be reported online at www.reportband.gov or by calling 1-800-327-BAND. Your band report will aid wildlife biologists in more accurately monitoring the dove population.

In appreciation for your cooperation, you will be provided with a certificate that will tell you the age and sex of the bird as well as the location where it was banded.

It is interesting to note that the oldest known mourning dove was a male that was at least 30 years, 4 months old when it was harvested in Florida in 1998. When the hunter bagged the bird he saw that it was wearing a well-worn band. After submitting the band number he later learned that this lucky bird was banded three decades earlier in the neighboring state of Georgia in 1968.

With each passing year, finding a place to hunt doves seems to be increasingly more difficult. With that in mind, the Georgia Wildlife Resources Division (WRD) has greatly increased the number of public dove fields planted on state wildlife management areas. Likewise, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Voluntary Public Access (VPA)/Habitat Incentive Program is also providing dove hunting opportunities on private lands.

This year the WRD has planted close to 40 dove fields across the state. If you would like information regarding the locations of the fields, crops planted, and hunting forecasts for these fields visit www.georgiawildlife.com/DoveForecast.

One of these fields is located on the Rum Creek WMA here in Monroe County. The only hunters that can hunt this field on Sept. 3 and Sept. 10 were selected in a random drawing held recently. However, if you were not selected to hunt on either hunt, you can do so later in the season on the following dates: Sept. 17, Oct. 22-25 and Nov. 24-Jan. 15.

Hunters 10 years old and older wanting to hunt doves on a state wildlife management area need a Wildlife Management Area License in addition to their free Migratory Bird Harvest Information Program (HIP) Permit, and Georgia hunting license.

If you have any questions regarding both dove hunting opportunities throughout the state or the rules and regulations governing dove hunting, consult the 2016-2017 Georgia Hunting Seasons and Regulations Guide. This free guide is available at your local hunting license dealer. The guide can also be viewed online at www.gohuntgeorgia.com.

Terry Johnson is the retired Program Manager of the Georgia Nongame-Endangered Wildlife Program. He has written an informative column for the Reporter for many years.