Outdoors: Dove shoots signal kickoff to hunting season

Outdoors

Savvy dove hunters can arrive at the field early to select a top spot.

Beginning Saturday, Sept. 7, hunting season kicks off with the opening day of dove season. Hunters in the northern zone of our state will venture out to fields in pursuit of the fast-flying Mourning Dove. For decades past the opening day of dove season has signalled the start of the upcoming hunting season across Alabama and the Southeast.

Dove season officially opens at noon. The bag limit is 15 birds per hunter. An Alabama state hunting license is required along with the Migratory Bird Harvest Information Program (HIP) certificate.

Over the years, Southern dove hunts have grown to establish deep traditions of heading out into the field on a late summer afternoon with a trusty shotgun and plenty of shells. Some dove hunts begin early in the morning long before the official shooting time. Hunters gather near the field to do a little grilling and barbecuing to welcome the start of the season.

“We’ll throw a type of meat, burgers, hot dogs or ribs on the grill and let it cook while we’re hunting,” said Chris Mitchell of Talladega. “Guys can come by and get some anytime during the hunt.”

A big part of a traditional dove hunt in the South is the fellowship and camaraderie. Hunters often gather around a grill for some tall hunting tales and football talk. By mid-afternoon it’s time to hunt and head out to the field.

Some dove hunters show up at a shoot and take the first position under a shade tree. However, savvy dove hunters will scout out a field before opening day if possible. They will observe flight paths and roosting areas where doves hang out.

“I’ll usually set up near some water close to a fly zone,” Mitchell said. “One of my favorite spots is between a power-line and a pond.”

Youth hunts available

The Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) has scheduled youth dove hunts in many counties around the state. Although the hunts are free, registration is required.  For the complete hunt schedule and to register for a hunt, visit www.outdooralabama.com/youth-dove-hunts.

To participate in the hunts, youth hunters must be age 15 or younger and accompanied by an adult at least 21 years old (or a parent) who holds a valid state hunting license and a HIP form. Hunters should obtain their license and HIP form before the hunt since they will not be available on-site.

Alabama’s Youth Dove Hunt events are held in open fields and staffed by WFF personnel, which encourages a safe, secure environment for both parents/guardians and youth participants. The program also makes use of private lands and fields opened for use by local landowners, which fosters good relationships between hunters and the landowners.

Before each hunt, a short welcome session with reminders on hunting safety will be conducted by WFF personnel. All hunters are encouraged to wear eye protection and earplugs.

Hunters and youth may want to bring a chair or dove bucket along with some water or sports drinks. A few snacks are in order too when the action slows. Also, remember to bring plenty of shot-shells and enjoy the outdoors.

Charles Johnson is the Star’s outdoor editor. You can reach Charles at charjohn@cableone.net

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