Doves are one of the most abundant game birds, so hunters should have some fun when the season opens Sunday in Nebraska and Iowa.

In Nebraska, doves may be hunted statewide with daily bag and possession limits of 15 and 45, respectively. Bag and possession limits are for mourning, white-winged and Eurasian collared doves. Shooting hours are 30 minutes before sunrise until sunset.

Hunters must register for a free Harvest Information Program number in addition to purchasing the necessary permits and stamps.

In Iowa, the daily bag limit is 15 with a possession limit of 30. Hunters are reminded that their gun must be plugged to hold no more than three shells. If hunting public areas north of I-80, hunters should check to see if nontoxic shot is required.

Game and Parks recommends hunters scout areas before they hunt.

“Hunters should target the food sources preferred by doves, including sunflowers, millet, sorghum, wheat and annual weeds. Food plots are planted on many of our Wildlife Management Areas each fall and provide some great opportunities," said John Laux, upland game program manager.

To view a list of the planted areas, see the 2019 Dove Hunting Fact Sheet at OutdoorNebraska.gov/SmallGameSpecies.

Doves are also known to congregate at water sources in the evening prior to roosting for the night.

“Ponds and stock tanks in close proximity to a good food source provide some great wing-shooting opportunities as well," Laux said. "Just remember that doves prefer to land and forage in areas with abundant bare ground."

Scouting is especially encouraged in southwest and western Iowa where May rains likely impacted many dove fields and plantings may have failed.

Todd Bogenschutz, upland wildlife research biologist with the Iowa DNR, said hunters looking for Plan B may want to focus on private land where farmers impacted by the flooding did a preventive planting. They could also look for silage or hay fields, harvested small grain fields, grazed pastures or feedlots.

“It really comes down to scouting, getting out there and looking at the area. If you’re on a public area look to see if the dove fields got in, if it matured and got mowed. Then scout it a day or two ahead of the season to see if and how the doves are using it,” he said.

He said there will likely be more hunters out and about because the season opens on a weekend.

“Hunters should maintain good spacing and stay in their shooting lanes and most importantly practice common courtesy,” Bogenschutz said.

Fast paced and fun, dove hunting can be done by nearly everyone regardless of skill level or mobility. It doesn’t require expensive equipment, only clothes that blend in to the background, a bucket and plenty of shells. There’s a lot of action with a steady stream of doves coming in.

In Nebraska, dove is just one of many hunting seasons that open in September.

Small game: Cottontail and jackrabbit seasons open Sept. 1.

Webless migratory birds: Dove, snipe and rail seasons open Sept. 1.

Upland birds: Prairie grouse season opens Sept. 1.

Waterfowl: Early teal season is Sept. 7-15 in the High Plains Zone and Sept. 7-22 in the Low Plains Zone.

Big game: Archery, Whitetail Statewide Buck, Youth, Landowner, Antlerless Only Season Choice and River Antlerless Private Land Only deer seasons open Sept. 1, as well as archery bull elk season. Fall turkey season starts Sept. 15. Muzzleloader antelope and firearm bull elk seasons begin Sept. 21.

Furbearers: Raccoon (hunt only) season starts Sept. 1.

Pheasant numbers down

Iowa’s pheasant hunters should expect to find a similar number of birds as last year, with the exception of south central and southeast Iowa, where the pheasant population decline was more significant.

Based on the August roadside survey, Iowa’s statewide average is 17 pheasants per 30 mile route, down from 21 per route last year.

“The survey shows a population similar to last year for most of the state and based on those results, pheasant hunters can expect 2019 to be a near repeat in most regions of 2018,” said Todd Bogenschutz, upland wildlife research biologist for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

He said hunters shouldn’t avoid hunting areas with lower counts, but rather focus on hunting the best available habitat.

“Hunting areas where there’s good habitat next to a food source should increase the chance for success regardless of where you’re hunting in the state,” he said.

The 2019 roadside index is nearly identical to 2008, when hunters harvested almost 400,000 roosters.

“Unfortunately even though this year’s roadside index is the same as 2008, our pheasant harvest will only likely be 200,000 roosters rather than 400,000. Why? Because of the lack of pheasant hunters,” Bogenschutz said. “In 2008 we had 86,000 pheasant hunters, this fall we predict we’ll have 50,000 hunters − we have the bird population to harvest close to 400,000 birds, but we don’t have the hunters to harvest them.”

Iowa’s quail population was down 36 percent from last year. Iowa’s quail range is across the southern three tiers of counties.

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Marjie is a writer for The World-Herald’s special sections and specialty publications, including Inspired Living Omaha, Wedding Essentials and Momaha Magazine. Follow her on Twitter @mduceyOWH. Phone: 402-444-1034.

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