Talkin' Outdoors

With little fanfare, dove season kicked off Saturday, September 1. To be honest, opening day slipped up on me; I usually write something about the upcoming season but this year, it sneaked up leaving me with the option of writing about doves after opening weekend.

The first of the three-way split seasons opened in the North Zone (see Wildlife and Fisheries regulations as to the location of the line separating North from South zones) September 1-23 giving hunters a long weekend to engage in the year’s first hunting season.

I did some research on these birds and found some interesting things about doves that inhabit Louisiana. Did you know there are seven sub-species of doves in our state?

The most common one, the Mourning dove, is the one causing hunters to sometimes fill the air with epithets because they can be so difficult to hit. The tendency is to frequently hit where they recently were; their darting, diving, twisting maneuvers and ability to turn on the after-burners result in more mourning doves escaping the barrage of shots than those ending up on the grill. Daily bag limit is 15.

A second dove, much more uncommon than mourning doves, is the White-winged dove, a bird much more common in Texas and states to the west than here. I saw my first one last year when a hunter on the field I was hunting downed one. These birds are legal to take with the same regulations as mourning doves; daily bag limit is 15.

There are two sub-species of doves in Louisiana that have no daily bag limit. However there is one caveat — one fully feathered wing and the head must remain attached to the bird after dressing and cleaning. Otherwise, they become part of the 15-bird daily limit.

The most common of these no-limit birds is the Eurasian Collared dove. They are larger than mourning doves and are lighter in color. The most telling feature is a dark ring around the bird’s neck.

Another no-limit dove is the Ringed Turtle dove. These look somewhat similar to a slightly smaller and lighter colored version of the Eurasian Collared dove but I don’t know that I have never seen one.

Louisiana has two species of doves that are protected; there is no season on the Common Ground Dove and the Inca Dove.

The Common Ground dove is the smallest of the Louisiana seven and is one you’re not likely to see; there have been no reported sightings in north-central Louisiana. The population of the Inca dove is increasing over the state; I have seen these beautiful birds at my feeders on several occasions. Their most telling feature is a layer of feathers that appear more like small scales then feathers.

The seventh species is one you’re not likely to consider a species of dove. You see them around town, sitting on the top of buildings or on phone wires. We know them as pigeons but technically, they’re Rock doves. These birds are not protected and can be taken anytime year round. However, I wouldn’t advise walking down Trenton St. in downtown Ruston with your shotgun plunking pigeons off the roof of tall buildings. The authorities might not find that amusing.

It’s unfortunate but you can just about count on seeing articles in the paper about some dove hunters being arrested. The vast majority of those arrested will be cited for hunting over bait. In a nutshell, here’s what the regulations say about baiting — it is legal to grow crops and then manipulate them so that seeds that are grown in the field are more available to doves. You can bush-hog crops to knock down seeds, which is legal. Where you get in trouble is adding seeds to a dove field that didn’t grow there or harvesting grain and return some to the field. That’s a big no-no and not a good way to get your name in the paper.

Have fun, be safe, stay within the boundaries of the law and enjoy Louisiana’s first hunting season of the year.