Dove hunting: Public opportunities will abound this fall

Mourning doves, above, are the first quarry for many hunters. Sixteen WMAs, below, will host hunters on prepared fields this fall. (Wikkipedia Commons)

Mourning doves, above, are the first quarry for many hunters. Sixteen
WMAs, below, will host hunters on prepared fields this fall. (Wikkipedia Commons)

By Kevin Tate
Outdoors Writer
Wingshooters looking forward to the traditional September dove opener have a wide variety of public and fee-based private opportunities to consider. Wildlife Management Areas and a number of state-leased private fields here offer reliable, family-friendly opportunities to greet the fall with birds on the wing.

One such option is a state-leased 20-acre private field near Booneville growing browntop millet, corn and sunflowers specifically for doves. There will be 26 permits available to the public for this field. According to state wildlife officials, there will be seven such fields available statewide this fall. Others will be in Tate, Kemper, Rankin, Pearl River, Jones and Copiah Counties. Interested parties may pay $100 to hunt doves on one selected field during the first two seasons including on opening day, $200 to hunt any and all of the fields including on opening day, or $150 to hunt any and all of the fields with the exception of opening day. The permits will be sold online at through an interactive tool that allows permit buyers to select their preferred stand sites. That function will be available no later than the first Monday in August, officials say, on a first-come, first-served basis.

Public, private options
Opportunities and stand sites at these state-leased fields on private land are limited and reserved, whereas opportunities on Wildlife Management Areas are not. To hunt there requires only the standard state hunting license plus the $15 WMA annual user permit, available when and where state hunting licenses are sold. In the northeast Mississippi area, prepared fields will be available on Tuscumbia, Hell Creek, Divide Section, Sardis and Black Prairie WMAs, and in some instances more than one field per WMA. In all, 16 WMAs statewide will offer prepared opportunities to hunt doves. Some will offer youth-only hunts and some will allow hunting only on certain days, so be sure to check your intended destination’s regulations before you go.

Plenty of chances
“We have realized dove hunting opportunities in the state are limited and we’ve tried to make it an emphasis in what we’re doing,” Scott Baker, a wildlife biologist with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, said. “We make an effort in both our public and private programs to be both youth- and family-friendly.”

The private land dove field program is an innovation still in development, and one that has been very popular with hunters.

“The number of fields fluctuates each year,” Baker said, noting the one near Booneville is new for this season. “The agency doesn’t make any money on the program. The fees just cover the expenses, and people haven’t minded paying.”