When Christmas approaches, a handful of Arkansas hunters go after doves.

Surprised that dove hunting did not end after a couple of days in early September? True, that is the usual concept of dove hunting, but the challenging birds are around in abundant numbers late in the year.

The late dove season runs from Saturday, Dec. 21, through Sunday, Jan. 9, statewide. The daily limit is 15 mourning doves, with no limit on Eurasian collared doves.

Doves that live in Arkansas are joined by birds migrating from northern areas in December and January. In early September, hunters are used to seeing doves in singles and pairs. Late in the year, though, doves hang together in bunches, sometimes several dozen birds.

A good area to look for December doves is in the Arkansas River corridor. Two factors bring the doves to this travel area. One, it is a migration path for many variety of birds, doves included. Two, food in the form of weed seeds is plentiful.

In other areas, farm fields are where doves often are found even if the spilled or leftover soybeans and grains are mostly gone. Check the edges of fields where weeds with seeds may be used by doves.

The weather may be a complete change from early September dove work, but the basics are the same. Camouflage is virtually essential. Many hunters like to set up with a tree or at least a fence post behind them to break up that telltale human silhouette. Consider two essentials for doves – food and water.

Shooting, like in the early seasons, can be at close range, medium range or long range. Most hunters load up with shells carrying shot in sizes 7½, 8 or 9.

A caution, though. If you go for a doubleheader of dove and duck hunting, be sure to empty pockets and shell holders of ammunition for one when switching to the other. You absolute cannot have lead shot shells on you when hunting ducks, and “I just forgot” doesn’t cut it with state or federal wildlife officers.

Logo courtesy Arkansas Game and Fish Commission

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