Missouri has plenty of mourning doves, and Missouri
hunters will find thousands of acres of specially
managed fields where they can hunt them.
Dove hunting season opens Sept. 1 and runs through
Nov. 9. John Schulz, a resource scientist for the
Missouri Department of Conservation, says hunters will
find plenty of doves when opening day arrives.
"The number of doves counted in our roadside survey
this year was up in five out of eight regions," Schulz
said. "The dry weather we are having probably is
Schulz said mourning doves make flimsy nests that
provide little protection from the elements, so rainy
weather cuts into chicks' survival. Dry weather reduces
Furthermore, doves are ground feeders and are not as
agile on their feet as quail or songbirds. Consequently,
they have trouble reaching seeds and insect foods
when vegetation is thick. Droughty weather decreases
undergrowth, giving doves easier access to food.
Schulz said hunter success on opening day will
depend heavily on Midwestern weather conditions just
before Sept. 1 and on local availability of food that
draws doves into huntable concentrations.
The Conservation Department has made a big push to
turn the food factor in hunters' favor. This year it has
dramatically increased the number and acreage of crop
fields planted with doves' favorite foods -- mainly
sunflowers and wheat. Doves appreciate the food plots,
and hunters appreciate having places where doves are
easy to find.
The Conservation Department doubled the number of
fields planted for doves, and it quadrupled the acreage
in such fields. In all, the Conservation Department has
more than 100 dove hunting fields in 50-plus counties.
The total acreage is approximately 5,000 acres, four
times the dove hunting ground available on
conservation areas last year.
"The mourning dove is Missouri's most popular game
bird," said Wildlife Division Administrator Dave
Erickson. "That's partly because it's a very democratic
sort of hunting. It doesn't take lots of experience or
fancy equipment. Just about anyone can enjoy it if they
have a place to go, and we are doing our best to make
sure everyone has a dove hunting spot within
reasonable driving distance of their home."
Maps showing the locations of dove fields are available
through Conservation Department regional offices
statewide. A list of conservation areas with dove fields
and maps of the areas is available at
The latest mourning dove status report also is available
Areas where dove population indices were up
compared to last year include the Mississippi
Lowlands (+31.5 percent), Ozark Plateau (+26.2
percent) Western Prairie (+19.7 percent), Northwestern
Prairie (+12.7 percent), and Western Ozark Border (+2.6
percent). Areas where indices dipped this year were the
northern and Eastern Ozark Border (-16.6 percent),
Northern Riverbreaks (-14.3 percent) and Northeastern
Riverbreaks (-6.3 percent).
Although dove numbers were down from last year in the
Northern and Northeastern riverbreaks, these areas
remain 10.4 and 6.9 percent above their 10-year
averages, respectively. Statewide dove numbers were
3.9 percent higher than last year and 5.5 percent
greater than the 10-year average.
Dove hunters ages 16 through 64 must buy a Small
Game Hunting Permit and a Missouri Migratory Bird
Hunting Permit to pursue doves. Shooting hours are
one-half hour before sunrise to sunset.
Although mourning doves are the primary object of dove
hunters' attention, Missouri also has one exotic dove
species and another native species that is seen
occasionally. Eurasian collared-doves and
white-winged doves are legal game in Missouri, but
they must be included in the aggregate daily limit of 12
and the possession limit of 24 doves.
Full details on dove season regulations are available in
the 2003 Migratory Bird Hunting Digest. The booklet is
available free of charge at Conservation Department
offices and wherever permits are sold.