A WING AND A PRAYER

Dove sea­son opens Fri­day, but Mother Na­ture is not co­op­er­at­ing

The Oklahoman (Sunday) - - SPORTS -

Dove sea­son opens Fri­day statewide, a day ea­gerly an­tic­i­pated by many hunters, but another cooler and wet­ter-than-nor­mal Au­gust in Ok­la­homa has the open­ing day fore­cast look­ing a bit dreary.

“It’s not look­ing just real great right now,” said Josh Richard­son, mi­gra­tory bird bi­ol­o­gist for the Ok­la­homa De­part­ment of Wildlife Con­ser­va­tion. “It’s not be­cause of bird numbers. We still have lots of birds around. A lot of birds pro­duced this sum­mer, but this cool and wet weather is not good for hunt­ing.

“There will be birds still fly­ing around and peo­ple will shoot some, but the last cou­ple of weeks, the cool and wet weather seemed to scat­ter them out and change their flight pat­terns. It makes try­ing to set up a dove field pretty hard, too.

“You get seeds down on the ground (in an agri­cul­ture field) and it will get rain and they will ei­ther spoil or sprout be­fore the sea­son starts. Once that hap­pens, doves are not all that in­ter­ested in it.”

Dove hunters may have dif­fi­culty find­ing a field that the birds are still feed­ing in, Richard­son said.

“If I were to give folks guid­ance, I would prob­a­bly tell them to find a lit­tle more nat­u­ral, na­tive plant sort of food source in­stead of wheat or some­thing like that,” he said.

Tar­get­ing a wa­ter­ing hole for doves also is dif­fi­cult when there are hun­dreds of pud­dles for them to choose from every square mile.

While the cool Au­gust weather is a god­send for most Ok­la­homans, dove hunters will be pray­ing for a few re­ally hot days be­fore Fri­day.

“If we could get three or four good hot days be­fore the sea­son starts up, that would be what it takes to get birds up into good flocks and mov­ing as a unit,” Richard­son said.

“Doves are re­ally gre­gar­i­ous birds. The hot­ter weather re­ally con­cen­trates their move­ments at first light and in the evening. So, if you get hot weather and birds con­cen­trated again, it (hunt­ing) will pick up, but it’s not look­ing real great on the fore­cast I am see­ing.”

Dove hunt­ing is al­ways hit or miss, but the lessthan-ideal weather con­di­tions will make it even more so open­ing week­end. Scout­ing will be even more im­por­tant, and us­ing dove de­coys could help hunters.

Sept. 2 and 3 will be the state’s an­nual free hunt­ing days, so hunters liv­ing in Ok­la­homa will not need to carry a state hunt­ing li­cense or HIP per­mit. Non­res­i­dent hunters above the age of 14, how­ever, will still need both a hunt­ing li­cense and HIP.

By mid-Septem­ber, al­most ev­ery­one is ready to move on to the deer archery sea­son, which opens Oct. 1. After midSeptem­ber, few peo­ple are still shoot­ing doves.

But when Dec. 1 ar­rives, that may change. Ok­la­homa will get 20 more dove hunt­ing days in De­cem­ber and in fu­ture years.

Ok­la­homa has had a nine-day dove sea­son in De­cem­ber around Christ­mas in re­cent years, but now dove sea­son will re­open Dec. 1 and run through Dec. 29.

Ok­la­homa’s ad­di­tional dove hunt­ing days in De­cem­ber are a re­sult of a change to the na­tional dove har­vest strat­egy and the fed­eral guide­lines that states use when set­ting hunt­ing sea­sons.

Most doves mi­grate through Ok­la­homa dur­ing the first sev­eral weeks of Septem­ber, de­pend­ing on the weather. But Ok­la­homa has a smaller pop­u­la­tion of res­i­dent mourn­ing, white-winged and Eurasian col­lared doves that re­main through win­ter. The ad­di­tional De­cem­ber days will give quail and pheas­ant hunters some­thing else to shoot when in the field.

While the cooler and wet­ter-than-nor­mal Au­gust has damp­ened the dove hunt­ing out­look, it has the Sept. 9 teal sea­son opener look­ing more promis­ing.

“I haven’t seen a lot of teal around yet, but I would def­i­nitely start ex­pect­ing see­ing teal any day now,” Richard­son said.

[PHOTO BY WADE FREE]

Hav­ing a companion to re­trieve birds can come in handy on the open­ing day of dove sea­son. Ok­la­homa’s statewide dove hunt­ing sea­son opens Fri­day.

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