Data presented in the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s recently published report entitled “Mourning Dove Population Status Report -- 2020” confirmed something that Georgia dove hunters have long suspected -- Georgia is the top dove hunting state in the Southeast.
Each year the USFWS produces a report on the health and harvest trends of the mourning dove. As such, the 2020 report summarizes data collected prior to and during the 2019-20 dove hunting season.
Last year, as of Sept. 1, biologists estimated that 182,861,725 doves were winging their way about the United States. Some 43,914,557 were living in what the USFWS refers to as the Eastern Management Unit (EMU), which includes the Southeastern states. The other two management units are the Central (CMU) and Western (WMU).
It should be noted data collected during the past 54 years indicate that nationwide mourning doves numbers have increased in EMU whereas they have declined in both the CMU and WMU.
Harvest surveys estimate roughly 663,000 American hunters harvested approximately 10 million mourning doves last season. Approximately 37 percent of these birds were taken in the EMU, 53 percent in the CMU and only 10 percent in the WMU.
During the 2019-20 Mourning Dove Hunting Season, 33,400 hunters hunted this popular game bird in Georgia. This was more than hunted the birds within the borders of our immediate neighbors (Alabama, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee.) North Carolina ranked an extremely close second with 33,300 hunters. The numbers of active hunters in our other sister states were Alabama (28,600), Florida (7,400), South Carolina (22,400), and Tennessee (17,100).
Georgia also topped the list in the category of days spent hunting doves. Last year, Georgians hunted approximately 93,300 days. The totals for our nearest neighbors were Alabama (61,700), Florida (24,200), North Carolina (61,000), South Carolina (60,900), and Tennessee (46,300).
Georgia finished second to South Carolina when it came to the number of mourning doves bagged during the entire season. In 2019, Georgia hunters averaged taking home 21.3. On the average, South Carolians took home slightly more doves (22.0). The other four states in this group each fell far short of this level of success. The average number of doves taken by hunters during the dove season were Alabama (17.9), Florida (15.2), North Carolina (10, 1) and Tennessee (13.4).
When it came to the size of the dove harvest, Georgia far exceeded its sister states. A whopping 717,600 mourning doves were bagged in the Peach State. Alabama earned a distant second with 512,800 birds. South Carolians bagged 493,200 birds. North Carolina dove fields yielded 336,600 doves. Hunters in the Volunteer State of Tennessee dropped 278,700 doves. The fewest doves were taken home in the Sunshine State of Florida. Floridians bagged only 113,000 mourning doves.
The fact that the mourning dove remains our number one game bird is a tribute to the bird’s resiliency and sound wildlife management.
It is far too early to know how the 2020-21 Mourning Dove Hunting will turn out. However, chances are good that it will prove successful and Georgia will retain its title as being the best place to hunt doves in the Southeast.
Terry Johnson is retired Program Manager of the Georgia Nongame-Endangered Wildlife Program. He has written the informative column ‘Monroe Outdoors’ for the Reporter for many years. His book, “A Journey to Discovery,” is available at The Reporter. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.