The threat of rain did not hold up hunters, heading into the field for Iowa’s 2012 mourning dove season, Saturday, September 1. Most of those 30,000 expected hunters learned that early is better, as they pursue the state’s newest game species.

The migrating doves focus on food plots, as they move through Iowa. Most public wildlife areas had worked food plots into their management plans. And crowds of hunters responded.

“It was great. We had a real good morning of hunting. We were done about a quarter after 8 or so,” reviewed Chad Rotter, of Amana. He and Mike Chismar, of Cedar Rapids, camped near their hunting area on Hawkeye Wildlife Area in northern Johnson County. By dawn, they had rolled out of their bunks and had their set up ready to go.

In this second season of mourning dove hunting in Iowa, wingshooters are embracing the new opportunity. Part of that challenge is learning to pattern the diving, ducking feathered ‘missiles’ as they pass by.

“They’re tricky, flying birds. It requires a pretty good shot. You’re not going to get one every time you shoot. It’s quite a challenge. Quite a sport,” admitted Chismar. “It was a heck of a lot better than my first time out last year. It was three or four days after the season opened. It was great to be out here opening day. Lotta birds.”

Wildlife biologists and hunters who have pursued doves in other states expect the biggest concentration of birds in the first couple weeks of the season. Hunters are also learning to work in a crowd. Many public areas had five, eight, even a dozen vehicles parked in the lots or along road shoulders. Spread up and down the line of mowed sunflower fields, for instance, hunter safety…and etiquette…are foremost.

“Talk to the people in your groups. Give them a zone of fire that they will have. If they don’t have the shot, they need to leave it to the next person,” emphasized DNR conservation officer Aric Sloterdyk.  “If it’s not there, it goes to the next group. Wait for the next bird to come.”

Sloterdyk, who worked Benton and Linn counties on opening day, said hunters were pretty successful; some limits, others with 4, 5 or 10 birds (the daily limit is 15 mourning doves).

“The birds were coming in on the mowed sunflower fields. Hunters were taking shorter shots. They’re just not used to it yet. Overall, they had pretty good success,” Sloterdyk said.

Hunters still need to gauge those shots. Many packed in a couple boxes of shotgun shells (25 each) but had to head back to the truck for more before they were done for the day.

“There weren’t as many going out as last year (though),” estimated Sloterdyk. “They may be getting the hang of it.”

Iowa’s mourning dove season extends through November 9.

Logo courtesy Iowa Department of Natural Resources

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