Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish & Wildlife ServiceIf you’re a dove hunter, you know how agonizing it can be to watch rain fall in August. No matter how many birds you’ve seen and coos you’ve heard, a single storm can move doves out of Utah in a hurry.
So why doesn’t Utah start its dove hunt sooner than Sept. 1? “We can’t,” says Tom Aldrich, migratory game bird coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources. “International law won’t allow us to.”
Aldrich is referring to the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The act prohibits migratory bird sport hunts from occurring in the United States between March 11 and Aug. 31. Sport hunts can resume on Sept. 1. “So we’re tied to the Sept. 1 opening date,” Aldrich says. “But if the weather stays warm and dry, plenty of doves should be in Utah on opening day.”
The number of mourning doves that bred in Utah this year was similar to the number of doves that bred in the state last year. In fact, if you average out the survey data, the number of mourning doves in Utah and the six other states that make up the Western Dove Unit hasn’t changed much in the past 10 years.
Aldrich says the number of doves that are produced isn’t the critical factor in determining how many doves you’ll see each season.“The critical factor is whether the doves that were produced are still here once the season starts,” he says.
The Eurasian collared-dove is one dove that’s showing up in Utah in greater numbers every year.
There’s no bag limit on Eurasian collared-doves, so you can take as many as you like. But if you don’t want the birds to count as part of your 10-dove limit, wait until you get home before you pluck or breast the birds.
Aldrich says once a dove is plucked, it’s difficult to tell whether the bird is an Eurasian collared-dove, a mourning dove or a white-winged dove. “If you pluck the birds before you get them home, you’ll have to count them as part of your 10-dove limit,” he says.
Aldrich also reminds you that mourning and Eurasian collared-doves are often found together. “Make sure you can identify the two doves so you’ll know which ones have to be counted as part of your 10-dove limit,” he says.
Drawings that show the three dove species found in Utah are available on page 39 of the 2010 – 2011 Utah Upland Game Guidebook.
The guidebook is available at www.wildlife.utah.gov/guidebooks .
Take your kids hunting
If you want to get your children involved in hunting, the dove hunt is a good one to try. “You don’t need a lot of equipment,” Aldrich says, “and it’s usually warm during the hunt. “It’s also a fairly easy hunt. You don’t have to hike to the top of a mountain to find doves.”
Seeds, Seeds, Seeds
To find doves, Aldrich says you should look for two things: a water source that has cover and shade near it, and lots of wild seed.
“Doves eat mostly seeds,” Aldrich says. “If you can find the seeds they like, you should find the doves.”
Wild sunflower seeds and seeds from a variety of weeds and grasses are among the seeds doves eat. Aldrich says some of the best weed-producing areas are places where road building has disturbed the area.
Doves also eat seeds from agricultural crops, such as waste grain that’s left in fields after the grain is harvested. Safflower, wheat and sorghum seeds are especially important to doves.
Make sure you’re registered in the Migratory Game Bird Harvest Information Program (HIP) for the 2010 season. You can register at http://www.uthip.com/ .
It’s a good idea to wear hunter orange during the dove hunt, especially on opening day. “Doves don’t seem to notice the hunter orange,” Aldrich says, “and wearing it makes you stand out to other hunters.”
Much of Utah’s dove hunting happens on private land. Make sure you get written permission from the landowner before hunting on his or her land.
It’s usually hot during the dove hunt. Make sure you clean your doves quickly (unless they’re Eurasian collared-doves you don’t want to include as part of your bag limit), and keep them cool in an ice chest.
Take good care of your dog. Bring water for it. And be careful about taking your dog into an area that might have rattlesnakes.