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Lake life

Where did the doves, hunters go?

Will the great desire to get outdoors during the pandemic and hopes for bigger populations of doves increase the number of dove hunters in 2020? Will groups even be able to enjoy the “social” aspect of opening day group hunts? Nobody knows the answer to that, but we do know this: Louisiana’s dove season opens in both the North and South Zones on Saturday, Sept. 5, and while most hunters never take advantage of it, the season in both zones actually runs into late January, 2021. There appear to be good populations of doves this year, but if you look at the numbers, staggering declines in the numbers of birds and hunters have been recorded in Louisiana over the past few years.

In the 2014-15 season, LDWF estimated that 48,900 hunters targeted doves with harvest numbers around 902,300. By last season, those numbers had dwindled by more than 50% to 19,800 hunters with a harvest of 332,700. Some of that could be due to lack of proper reporting, but it is hard to tell.

One interesting fact about dove season is that even though doves are considered “migratory birds”, that isn’t always the case here.

Jeffrey P. Duguay’s daughter, Emily, helps him band a dove for releasing to study dove movements and populations

“Most of the early season doves harvested in Louisiana are resident birds,” Jeff Duguay of the LDWF says. “We have lots of birds that spend most or all of their lives in Louisiana. They are hatched here and remain year round. Some do migrate though. Our dove banding efforts provide us good information on dove movements. We’ve banded doves that were recovered in the same general location (within 25 miles or less) 3 or more years later. We know that these particular birds have survived several years. Whether they remained in the same general location all this time or moved considerable distances is not known though. We’ve also banded doves that have been recovered in other states including Iowa, Texas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Illinois, Missouri, Florida, Nebraska as well as Mexico.”

Rainfall is probably the biggest factor affecting early dove season. Too much or too little rain can impact crops planted to attract or concentrate doves for hunting. That also affects migratory birds as well as resident birds.

The North Zone splits are Sept. 5 – 27, Oct. 10 – Nov. 15 and Dec 26 – Jan. 24. Dove hunters in the North zone should take note: The state’s hunting pamphlet has a printing error showing that the north zone third split runs from December 26-Jan. 2. It should ready December 26-January 24. The South Zone splits are Sept. 5 – 16, Oct. 17 – Nov. 29 and Dec 19-Jan. 21.

Daily limit on doves is 15 in aggregate, either mourning, white-winged, fully dressed Eurasian and collard doves). The possession limit is 35 in aggregate.

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