FRANKFORT, Ky. (8/23/13) – Few Kentuckians can remember a weirder summer, weather wise. Early mornings in mid-August so cool you could almost see your breath. Grass as lush and green as it is in late April lasting all summer long.
Flooding conditions in July coupled with just a few days of actual Kentucky summer heat. This weather puzzles humans, but the doves don't mind. They are plentiful statewide and will provide plenty of opportunity for the opening of dove season on Sept. 1.
"I think it is going to be a good season, despite all the wet weather," said Rocky Pritchert, migratory bird coordinator for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. "Doves are abundant this year. I am seeing a lot of them."
The first segment of dove season closes Oct. 24. The season opens again Nov. 28 and closes Dec. 6. The third segment of dove season opens Dec. 28, 2013 and closes Jan. 3, 2014. The daily bag limit remains 15 doves.
"Our public dove hunting fields on our wildlife management areas are overall in good shape," Pritchert said. "Some of our fields came in a little late and we had to switch our grains from sunflowers to millet. Millet has a shorter growing period than sunflowers. There is a lot of variance across Kentucky this year."
The first two weeks of dove season see the highest participation from hunters, but not necessarily the best hunting.
"Traditionally, dove season was the first thing to come in," Pritchert said. "Hunters will hunt hard for the first couple of weeks; then other seasons come in such as deer or early wood duck."
Dove hunters who want the fields for themselves should continue to hunt after the initial rush, especially this year. Those who can gain permission to hunt silage fields just after their harvest may see more doves than on opening day.
"The silage is going to be late," Pritchert said. "It is not browning at all from what I've seen. I saw some browning silage in west Kentucky, but overall it is still green and healthy."
When farmers cut those silage fields to fill their silos, they leave waste grains on the fields. Doves flock to them.
Dove hunting is a social tradition in Kentucky. That aspect makes it a perfect venue to introduce a child, family member or friend to hunting.
"Dove hunting offers great opportunity for social hunting with friends and family and that aspect makes it great for new hunters," said Jamie Cook, mentor hunting coordinator for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. "It is always good for new hunters to go with more people."
The nature of dove hunting also makes it great for kids. "Kids don't have to sit still all of the time like in a tree stand for deer hunting," Cook said. "There is a lot of action and kids can get up and move around. It is hard for a youngster to sit around and remain quiet for long periods of time."
Cook also recommended a single shot 20-gauge shotgun for a kid learning dove hunting. "The single shot teaches more about hitting that first bird than just quick, repetitive shooting," he said. "It instills shot discipline and a single shot is much more affordable."
Dove hunters must have a valid Kentucky hunting license along with either a Kentucky Migratory Bird Permit or a Kentucky Waterfowl Permit before taking the field.
"Buy lots of shot shells and go have fun," Pritchert said.
Author Lee McClellan is an award-winning associate editor for Kentucky Afield magazine, the official publication of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. He is a life-long hunter and angler, with a passion for smallmouth bass fishing.
Information provided by Seth Stewart (Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife)
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