Doves have proven elusive game

Published 12:32 am Saturday, September 24, 2011

If things have been unusually quiet in the dove fields around your home this September, you are not alone. Dove hunters throughout the Black Belt who have taken to the fields have often come home empty-handed this year.

Their aim is as good as ever; the problem is there simply aren’t any birds.

Chet Chappelle, owner of Rountree Outdoors, said he has seen a number of frustrated dove hunters come through the doors of his store already this season.

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“We have had maybe two guys come in and say they had good hunts out of 100,” he said. “They just aren’t seeing the birds like they used to. I think a lot of that has to do with the regulations. They are so strict on what you can put out there, as far as baiting, it makes it tougher. I think if they regulated limits a little more and relaxed some of the other rules, you would see a lot more birds.”

In south Dallas County, the reports have been similar.

Shane Duncan, of Safford Hardware, said he has seen his fair share of frustrated hunters.

“We’re hearing the same thing,” he said. “A lot of times there are people who have always had birds that just aren’t seeing them this year. I don’t know if it’s the weather or what. People just aren’t seeing birds like they used to.”

As Chappelle said, some hunters feel there are as many birds as ever, they just aren’t allowed to do what is necessary to draw them in.

Baiting, which is defined by the Alabama Department of Natural Resources as hunting over fields where corn, grain, feed and salt are distributed to lure doves in, is punishable by hefty fines or even time in jail.

Any area where bait has been placed constitutes a baited area. A baited area is considered baited for 10 days following the complete removal of the bait. Often times doves will habitually return to a feeding area for a few days after the bait has been removed.

One of the main problems with the current laws, Chappelle said, is it creates confusion among hunters.

Though baiting is forbidden, the ADNR says “doves may be hunted over a standing crop or any field where any grain, feed or salt has been distributed or scattered as a result of a normal agricultural operation.”

This includes lands planted as wildlife food plots, if the seed is planted in a manner consistent with the recommendations for planting.

The ADNR says “standing crops may also be manipulated by any method to attract doves such as mowing, discing or burning so long as it is not harvested and then redistributed on the field.”

The timing of planting is also an issue for many hunters.

The earliest recommended planting dates for the Central zone, which includes the Black Belt, is Sept. 1.  It is illegal to hunt over wheat planted before these dates or outside of dates and any small grain planting that does not conform to these guidelines shall be considered bait. Multiple seedings are also not permitted.

Because the suggested planting date was two days before the season began, hunters said it offered another degree of difficulty.
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