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Drought may affect dove season

By By Ben Norman
But according to Rick Claybrook, a wildlife biologist with the Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the recent droughts will likely affect dove hunting this season. "Many grain fields that have historically attracted birds in past seasons have experienced total crop failures, and many others are way below normal yield," said Claybrook. Claybrook says that based on the dove breeding population survey, overall dove population is about the same as it was last year.
Hunters who seek out grain fields that received enough moisture to produce an adequate food supply to attract doves will be the most successful this year. Claybrook says that eighty percent of the doves harvested during the first part of the season will be local birds that were hatched the previous spring. The larger, heavily feathered birds that we see later in the year are the migratory flocks that come down from Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Missouri and other mid-western states. Banding studies confirm that the majority of our northern doves that migrate to Alabama come from the above states, with a few coming from as far as Pennsylvania and New York. Both local and migratory flocks will be seeking out fields of brown top millet, corn, sunflower, wheat, and peanuts. Recently bush-hogged weed patches that contain a high seed count can also be very productive.
Doves experience a high mortality rate of 50-75 percent each year. Hunters account for only 25-30 percent of the annual mortality where hunting is legal. It is interesting to note that states that do not allow dove hunting experience about the same total mortality each year. Trichomonas and avin pox account for most of the losses from diseases.
Although doves have a high annual mortality rate, they are prolific breeders. They usually nest 2 or 3 times a year with some pairs nesting up to six times a year. Doves build a flat nest near the end of a limb and usually lay two eggs. The somewhat poorly constructed nest and its location at the end of a limb make the nest vulnerable to wind damage.
Southern dove hunts often take on the air of a large family reunion. Old friends are reunited and new friends made. A barbecue sometimes precedes the actual hunt. Discussions about new guns, camouflage clothing, old dogs and the latest gossip dominate conversations.
Opening day will soon be upon us with the first half of the North Zone opening Sept. 16 through Oct. 29 and the second half beginning Dec 23 through Jan 7. The bag limit in the North Zone is 15 birds. The first half of the South Zone split season opens Oct. 7 through Nov. 25 and the second half opens Dec.23 through Jan 11. South Zone limit is 12 birds.