By Chuck Ungs
Last year I was able to reap the benefits of a long and involved push to open a mourning dove hunting season in Iowa. I have hunted for doves in Nebraska and Missouri over the years. Starting back in the early 1990’s I was involved with an initiative to begin a dove season in Iowa. Virtually every state south and/or west of us held such seasons at that time. In fact – by the time Iowa’s season started last September there were also dove seasons started in Minnesota and Wisconsin as well. Iowa became the 42nd state to open a dove season. I had a great time with the hunts I participated in here in Iowa last year and encourage you to give a try if you are interested.
Doves are Americas most sought after game birds judging by the numbers of them harvested each year alone. There are a number of reasons for this fact. They are common to all states in the lower 48 states. They present challenging shots to the hunters. They are accessible by many hunters with food plots and similar hunting opportunities being found in many public and private hunting areas. They also allow youth and challenged hunters the opportunity to find a spot and then waiting for the flights to begin. The limits are generous due to doves’ ability to reproduce and their short lifespans. Last, but not least, doves are delicious table fare!
If you have never dove hunted before I would suggest spending a bit of time to scout in your favorite hunting areas to note where the flight patterns are showing the doves landing and leaving such classic areas as feeding spots, watering holes or places to gather grit. Beyond that – your shotgun loaded with fine shot, an open choke tube for the close shots, a bucket to sit on and carry your quarry home in is nice. A bit of camouflage clothing and a camouflage hat helps, dove decoys are beneficial if you want to use them as well.
Most folks will wear a vest to carry their shells after they have tried the sport a few times. Some people opt to wear ear plugs as they shoot to protect your hearing. Most folks are aware that we had some confusion on what type of shot needs to be used for doves and the law, as it currently sits, has no impact on what shot is used – however, I would suggest that steel shot is very effective and had great success using it on my hunting outings last year. I used steel all last year and found the price to be comparable to lead shot loads, without the possible environmental concerns.
A few items you may also want to consider would be a hunter orange cap to travel to and from your vehicle, perhaps a pair of binoculars, a bottle of water, a cooler of ice at the car to cool off the game until you have a chance to clean them. If you are bringing your dog to retrieve your doves you may also want to plan ahead to check your dog’s pads after the hunt for sandburs, and check your shoe laces carefully after the hunt as well – they really stick to laces.
The Iowa DNR has a number of areas planted for foodplots across the state, they can be found at the following site, http://www.iowadnr.gov/Portals/idnr/uploads/Hunting/mdove_plots.pdf
For additional information on dove hunting in Iowa you can also check the following address: http://www.iowadnr.gov/Hunting/MigratoryGameBirds/MourningDoves.aspx
A few areas you may wish to check out for doves locally include the following Linn County Conservation Dept. public hunting areas with sunflower food plots: Matsell Bridge Natural Area, Goose Pond Natural Area, Harold & Ruth Rehrauer Natural Area, or Chain Lakes Natural Area . Good luck and hunt safely!