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Public fields ready for doves, hunters

by Flip Putthoff | September 8, 2021 at 5:00 a.m.

Hunters eager for opening day of dove hunting season Saturday can find public land hunting opportunities on Arkansas Game and Fish Commission wildlife management areas that have been prepared to attract mourning doves.

Some 625 acres have been planted in sunflowers, wheat and other crops that bring in the birds. Fields include 32 acres on Wedington Wildlife Management Area in Benton and Washington counties.

"About 70% of our dove fields on wildlife management areas are top-sown wheat," said Garrick Dugger, assistant chief of wildlife at Game and Fish. "If the weather cooperates, we'll till and sow wheat seed just before opening day to prepare winter food plots for deer and other wildlife. Doves are attracted to the seed and other wildlife will benefit when the wheat grows and all the other vegetation on the wildlife management areas dies back during winter."

That's the plan, but it is a bit rainfall-dependent.

"We're watching tropical storm activity in the Gulf of Mexical that may bring rain just before the season," Dugger said. "That can impact our ability to manipulate the ground or top-sow wheat."

Not only can rain prevent tilling and disking of soil in fields, if it comes between the application of wheat seed and the hunting season, it can cause the seed to germinate, rendering it much less attractive to dove.

"We have a web page devoted to the dove fields that lists them by wildlife management areas," Dugger said. "If any dove fields have to be removed from the list because of weather, we'll take them down from the site. So I'd say it's smart to keep checking the status of the fields you're interested in to make sure your spot on opening day pans out."

Dugger added hunters will fare much better if they take a few evenings before their hunt to scout the fields in person.

"The listing on the site will give field locations and even a QR code people can scan with their phone to get turn-by-turn directions, so I'd take advantage of that," Dugger said. "The fields are first-come, first-served; so you want to know right where you're headed on opening morning and get there early."

Lists of wildlife management area with maps to all planned fields can be found at www.agfc.com/dove.

The season for mourning dove, white-winged dove and Eurasian collared dove runs Saturday to Oct.24, then resumes Dec. 8 through Jan. 15, 2022. The daily limit of mourning doves is 15. Any white-winged dove, a rare, but possible species in Arkansas, count toward the daily limit.

There is no limit on Eurasian collared dove, an invasive species that are larger and distinguished by a black "collar" stripe on the back of the neck. Eurasian collared dove must remain fully feathered in the field and while being transported from the field. Lead shot is legal for dove hunting on wildlife management areas, but nontoxic shot is required on national wildlife refuges.

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