By Kevin Tate/Outdoors Writer
Dove hunts in the second and third seasons in Mississippi routinely trade tradition for action, a fact enjoyed by a comparative few, largely because the rest don’t know what they’re missing.
Mississippi has offered a three-stage dove season for decades, allowing hunters the chance to spread their wingshooting action into November and December, though all but the traditional Labor Day weekend typically escapes the majority’s notice.
With few exceptions, the traditional early September opener finds only resident birds circling the dove fields of our state. Doves migrate for the same reasons and at the same provocations as waterfowl.
Dwindling food and worsening weather inspire them to travel south in the fall and those conditions have rarely set in across the regions to our north prior to the first Saturday in September.
Resident populations are abundant, though, and some great shoots can be had. Actual hunting, however, begins when their northern counterparts take wing and cross this way.
Higher, faster flocks
By the time migrant birds arrive in Mississippi they’re generally fully mature and in full plumage. They travel in flocks that often outnumber those seen in the late summer season opener, though they may tend to fly higher and faster when they come.
A good later season hunt typically depends more heavily on locating the doves’ food, water and roosting places, but the comparative lack of competition from neighboring prepared fields should more than make up for that fact.
Harvested corn fields, cattle feed lots and pastures growing native weeds and grasses all attract doves. Find spots where flight lines between food sources and adjacent roosting trees and water intersect and chances are excellent for a good day of pass shooting.
Watch the weather reports as successive fronts push through to our north. Birds tend to move in waves, arriving and departing like the tides.
In the shotgun department, late season doves present a challenge somewhere between that offered by opening day doves and waterfowl. A heavier load of number six shot, combined with a choke a step tighter than your Labor Day favorite makes a good combination.
All in all, it’s a challenge and an opportunity for those who enjoy a fine fall day spent watching the horizons and burning some powder with friends.
White-winged and Mourning Dove North Zone
Season 2: Open through Nov. 11
Season 3: Dec. 15 through Dec. 31