By Kevin Tate/Outdoors Writer
For guys like Scott Baker, who grew up with hunting, fishing and the outdoors here in Mississippi, the opportunity to look forward to the first dove shoot of the fall has always been a highly-valued privilege. It’s something that carried him through the latter part of the summer, through the dog days and into the return of the cool breezes of fall.
As a wildlife biologist with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, his role in helping the private land dove field program along has been a joy and a blessing.
“A big part of why we’re doing this is to recruit hunters,” Baker said. “We’d seen a decline in dove hunters’ numbers, and there were a number of reasons we found for that.
“One reason was, the simple difficulty of access. Another was, people often worried about finding themselves in the situation of not knowing whether the field they’d be hunting on was legal. Finally, there were some concerns about the hunters they’d be sharing the fields with.
“This program takes care of all of those concerns.”
Individual field permits are available for around $100 to $120, and are the most popular strata of permit chosen. For that, holders get to hunt three days per week through the first two seasons on the field of their choice.
“You can’t get a deal anything like that anywhere else,” Baker said. “You might find a pay hunt somewhere for $100 or $200, but that’s just for one day. Plus, these fields are prepared under (the MDWFP’s) direction, so you know they’re legal, and we administer these fields as well so safety is the number one priority.
“There’s absolutely no tolerance for alcohol or littering. We want it to be a family hunt.”
And families, Baker says, are what he’s seen get the most enjoyment from the program. Up to two youngsters may hunt free of charge from the permit-holder’s stand, when that person is there to supervise.
“I’ve seen some great, great dove fields,” Baker said. “Youngsters on their first dove hunt being exposed to it for the first time. It’s really rewarding when you see families, whether it be fathers and sons, husbands and wives, grandparents and grandchildren, taking part in what we regard as a vital Southern tradition.
“Dove hunting is so relatively inexpensive. A borrowed shotgun, a box of shells, an empty bucket to sit on are all you need provided you have somewhere to hunt. This program takes care of that.”
And on that note, Baker is constantly on the lookout for new fields to bring into the program.
“Generally we’re looking for a field whose farmer is willing to plant a grain crop suitable to doves, and we’d like for it to be at least 30 acres in size,” he said. “Anyone interested should call me at 601-432-2229. We’ll arrange a visit and go from there.”
Kevin Tate is V.P. of Media Productions for Mossy Oak in West Point.