Most years, dove hunters have already gotten a hint of the smell of gun oil and burnt powder and have sweated in camo while picking up their chair every half hour and moving a few feet to stay in the shade. Dove season usually opens at noon on Saturday of Labor Day weekend, giving hunters two and a half days of hunting.
Because of the way the calendar works, this year is different. Labor Day falls on September 2, which means that the date for Saturday is August 31 and according to federal law, there can be no dove hunting during the month of August. Therefore, opening day will be at noon September 7, but there’s nothing that says you can’t have a barbecue under the trees opening morning; you just can’t do it on August 31 and expect to wipe the barbecue sauce on your britches and hit the fields with your shotgun at noon.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries has an interesting link to those little gray buzz-bombs that can frustrate the daylights out of us. I learned some stuff I didn’t know. For example, did you know that in Louisiana we have seven species of doves and you can hunt five of these? Hunting for two species is not allowed.
Mourning doves are by far the most abundant and popular with a national population of nearly 350 million birds. These make up the vast majority of daily bag limits in Louisiana. Dove numbers have increased significantly in many states, including Louisiana. A couple of dozen daily gorge themselves under my backyard bird feeders.
Another dove that is being seen more frequently around north Louisiana is the Eurasian Collared Dove. These birds are larger than mourning doves, are lighter in color and can be identified by the black collar from which they get their name.
One species of dove, the Ringed Turtle Dove, closely resembles the Eurasian Collared Dove but is not nearly as abundant, mostly frequenting urban areas.
Our part of the country is seeing a growing population of White Winged Doves. These birds can be identified by a pale blue orbital ring around each eye along with a prominent white wing patch.
The Common Ground Dove is another species that has been observed in the state. These rather small chunky doves with a black-tipped orange bill have been seen in the southern parishes but have not been reported as being observed in north Louisiana.
Inca Doves are spreading across the state and can be identified by their small size, fairly tame disposition and covering of feathers that resemble scales. I have been fortunate to occasionally spot a pair of these birds under my feeders over the past year.
This comes to number seven, the Rock Dove. You see them around town, purchasing and defacing public buildings. We know them as pigeons.
Here’s the skinny on which doves you can legally include in your daily bag limit of 15. First, it’s important to mention the two species that will get you busted if found in your bag, Common Ground Doves and Inca Doves, which are off-limits to hunting.
Two species may be taken daily during season with the daily 15 bird bag limit applied, the mourning dove and white winged dove. There is no limit on the number of Eurasian Collared and Ringed Turtle Doves you can take. However, you must leave the head and one feathered wing attached; otherwise these birds figure into your 15 bird limit.
Rock doves, aka pigeons? Have at it. They’re not protected and can be taken throughout the year with no bag limit.
Enjoy your Labor Day and get ready for the chance to see seven different species of doves opening day September 7. Just be sure you know which ones you can bring home and which ones will get you a citation.