If you are the type who thinks the perfect hunting trip is one where you get to fire your shotgun a lot, dove hunting may be the sport for you.
Missouri's 70-day dove season begins Sept. 1. Hunters ages 16 through 64 must purchase 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.
New to the 2002 season is the addition of the Eurasian collared-doves and white-winged doves in the aggregate. The change provides for the incidental taking of the two species during the mourning dove season.
The combined daily bag limit of all three dove species is 12, with a combined possession limit of 24.
Full details on dove season regulations are available in the 2002 Migratory Bird Hunting Digest. The booklet is available free of charge at Conservation Department offices and wherever permits are sold.
Mourning doves should prove irresistible to anyone excited by speedy, erratic targets. Doves can fly as fast as 40 miles per hour, but they seem much faster when you are trying to follow them with a shotgun. They twist in flight, evading most shots fired at them. The average hunter expends three to five shells for every dove that goes in the bag.
Dove hunting can be a great sport for beginners as equipment needs are minimal. A shotgun, ammunition and a container for carrying doves and empty shells from the field are all you need. A small cooler provides a handy seat and is useful for carrying cool water and keeping the doves you shoot cool.
A healthy statewide dove population bodes well for the upcoming season. Annually the Missouri Department of Conservation conducts two surveys to estimate changes in the dove population. The Mourning Dove Call-Count Survey tracks the number of doves heard calling along about 20 survey routes. The Roadside Dove Survey documents doves observed in every county in the state except Jackson, St. Charles and St. Louis counties. This year, both surveys found dove numbers slightly higher than in 2001. Last year, Missouri hunters harvested 754,599 doves.
Hunting on private land can be good where crops such as corn, sorghum or wheat have been harvested recently, leaving waste grain exposed on bare ground. Such feeding areas can be found on conservation areas statewide. Taking a walk around conservation areas near you can be all it takes to find a good spot for opening day.
The conservation department also offers intensively managed dove hunting opportunities at several conservation areas around the state.
Some of these areas have restrictions on hunting party size and hunting hours. For details, contact the area manager at August A. Busch Memorial Conservation Area (CA) in St. Charles County, 636/441-4554; Bois D'Arc CA in Greene County, 417/751-3856; Eagle Bluffs CA in Boone County, 573/445-3882; James A. Reed Memorial Wildlife Area in Jackson County, 816/524-1656, and Pony Express Lake CA in DeKalb County, 816/675-2205.