Public birds: State fields offer fun, family atmosphere

Mourning doves are the first quarry for most hunters and one of the favorites for hunters of every level of experience. Hunters are reminded the law requires their gun be able to hold no more than three shells, and that the bag limit is 15 per day. Dove season opens in Mississippi on Monday.

Mourning doves are the first quarry for most hunters and one of the favorites for hunters of every level of experience. Hunters are reminded the law requires their gun be able to hold no more than three shells, and that the bag limit is 15 per day. Dove season opens in Mississippi on Monday.

By Kevin Tate

Outdoors Writer

One of the best options for hunters seeking spots for Monday’s dove opener and beyond may lie on public ground nearby.

State dove program coordinator Scott Baker and the staff with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks have been developing public dove hunt offerings for many years, and this year’s formula looks to be one of the best yet.

Hunters may pay between $100 and $200, depending on options, for a guaranteed stand on state-leased private land, or they may hunt first-come, first-served on fields prepared at state wildlife management areas. There are a number of both options available in north Mississippi.

“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,” Baker said. “We make an effort in both our public and private programs to be both youth- and family-friendly. Dove hunting is an introduction to hunting for most hunters, and it’s our goal to offer opportunities that are safe and affordable.”

Calling shooters

The WMAs, which only require users 16 and older have a hunting license and a $15 WMA permit, include Divide Section, Tuscumbia, Hell Creek, Canal Section and Black Prairie WMAs in north Mississippi, as well as many others statewide. For a full list, visit mdwfp.com and search “wma dove fields.”

Seeding the future

Plantings in these fields vary from area to area, but food sources on WMA dove fields often include mixtures of browntop millet, sunflowers, corn and milo. These fields are managed using selective herbicides, strip disking and mowing, in addition to planted crops.

Additionally, state-leased private land dove fields open to the public have proven very popular in recent years.

“We’ve sold out a number of the fields with very little marketing,” Baker said. “Word of mouth and repeat customers have filled up most of them.”

The two such fields with available slots remaining include those in Kemper and Prentiss Counties.

Friendly fields

In Kemper County, stations remain on a 92-acre browntop millet field east of Scooba. In Prentiss County, a 20-acre field has been planted in browntop millet, corn and sunflowers, and last year’s winter wheat crop is still standing. The crops were planted in alternating strips across the field and portions of each crop will be manipulated to attract doves for opening day and beyond. To hunt these, one must visit mdwfp.com and follow the dove field permit link from the front page.

Hunting on these fields is by permit only. Permit holders may bring up to two youth hunters age 15 or younger each, though all three must remain at one stand and no more than two people at a time per stand may shoot. Anyone 16 or older must have their own permit to hunt these fields.

Permitted hunters will be granted access to the field on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday afternoons during the first two dove seasons, which run Sept. 1 through 21, then Oct. 4 through Nov. 9.