Field of dreams – Youth dove hunts offer smooth introduction

Young hunters receive a safety briefing, above, and practical lessons, below, before loading up for doves at an afternoon hunt. (Courtesy MWFP)

Young hunters receive a safety briefing, above, and practical lessons,
below, before loading up for doves at an afternoon hunt. (Courtesy MWFP)

By Kevin Tate
Outdoors Writer

Youth dove hunts set for Black Prairie and Mahannah Wildlife Management Areas will offer youngsters good, safe access to September shooting, state wildlife officials say, working toward the department’s goal of introducing more new hunters to the outdoors statewide.

In an effort to increase public access to dove hunting opportunities, this season the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks has arranged for seven state-leased private fields to be available to hunters for a fee, as well as for public fields at 16 WMAs around the state to be available to everyone. Two of the WMA locations will open the fall season with limited-participation youth hunts for hunters age 15 or under. Parents or guardians at least 21 years of age must register the youngsters online at mdwfp.com.

Young shooters only
Each youth hunter must be accompanied by an adult at the hunt, but only the youngster will be allowed to do the shooting. The hunt at Black Prairie WMA, near Crawford, will be limited to 25 hunters and the one at Mahannah WMA, near Yazoo City, will be limited to 100. Neither requires a special fee, though the adult guardian of each young hunter must have a state hunting license and a WMA permit unless they’re otherwise exempt.

“As of Wednesday, we had 48 people signed up for the hunt at Mahannah,” said Roger Tankesly, a wildlife biologist with the MDWFP. He works with the Mahannah WMA in the state’s south Delta region. They’ve hosted youth hunts in the past two seasons that were very well attended and successful. This season they have a field of sunflowers roughly 100 acres strong that will be ready to go.

“Not a lot of people have seen 100 acres of sunflowers before,” he said.

Mahannah’s youth hunt is set for Sept. 14. No dove hunting will be allowed there before that day. Black Prairie’s youth hunt is set for the statewide opening day of Sept. 2. A 15-acre field of sunflowers and browntop millet will be ready to go there. Both events are set to begin by 11 a.m. on their respective days with a hunter safety briefing, skeet shooting, a hunter education laser shooting event and a catered lunch. The Little Dooey, of Starkville, will provide barbecue for the Black Prairie event, and the Mahannah event’s lunch will be hamburgers and hot dogs. Each hunt is expected to run from 2 p.m. until sunset.

Making new hunters
“One of the state’s big things right now is to introduce youth into hunting,” Chad Masley, Black Prairie WMA’s supervisor, said. “They’re the future of hunting altogether. It’s critical that we get kids involved in hunting.”

“We have realized the dove hunting opportunities in the state are limited, and we’ve tried to make it an emphasis in our overall planning,” said Scott Baker, an MDWFP wildlife biologist who’s spent more than 10 years working with the state’s dove program. “It introduces youngsters to a tradition they can enjoy all their lives.”