Where doves travel, how many of them survive hunting
seasons and other information on the popular and
prolific birds are the objects of research under way in
Arkansas and 25 other states.
In Arkansas, dove hunting is customarily the first
weekend of September, then so long. Other seasons
come along, and doves are forgotten until the following
September. But a small number of Arkansans have
learned doves provide challenging and handy hunting
into cooler, even cold, weather.
Dove hunting dates for the upcoming 2003-2004
season were set so the latter portions coincided with
duck season. The idea is to give hunters an option of
ducks in the morning, doves in the afternoon -- if they
choose so. But scientific knowledge is short on doves,
particularly their habits and how hunting affects them.
Arkansas Game and Fish Commission wildlife
biologists Mike Widner and Matt Mourot work out of the
agency's Mayflower office and were joined on a recent,
comparatively cool morning by Bob Conley and Kenny
Vernon. The assignment was to trap doves, attach
numbered leg bands, record data about each bird, and
then release them.
The setting for the trapping and banding work was on
the southern edge of Conway, with the Virco
Company's nature and wildlife preserve provided a
The 16 traps were low cages, a funnel opening letting
doves in to feed on grain, with protruding wires in the
inside of the funnels keeping the birds from getting
back out. Proso or white millet was the bait.
Singly, in pairs, in small flights, the zippy doves winged
over and along the ridge as morning light increased.
Soon they began landing around the cages and on the
cages. Blackbirds joined them. Food was available.
The biologists studied the cages with binoculars.
When close to a dozen doves were in the cages and
unable to get out, the biologists walked up and began
their recording and banding, one bird at a time.
Primary flight feathers were checked to determine age,
and many of the doves were youngsters, hatched this
year. The small, light bands were attached and listed by
number on a data sheet, then the birds were gently
tossed aloft to take wing again.
This fall, hunters will be asked to report banded doves
they kill. A toll-free number is on each of the bands;
1-800-327-BAND (or 1-800-327-2263). Hunters can call
24 hours a day Monday through Friday.