By Larry Dablemont
In early September, hundreds and hundreds of young doves in nests will die because of the September 1 opening of the dove season. I know that the majority of dove hunters don’t know that, and few of today’s young bird biologists know that.
Forty years ago, lots of doves were migrating down through the Midwest the first week of September. Far fewer are today. That is because in forty years, things change in nature. That change is tremendous. I know, I have seen it. I started observing it all 60 years ago. Right now, nothing that migrates does it like they did forty or fifty years back. Migrations of wild ducks and geese are far different than they were when I was a kid. I am not telling you any of this from what I read, but from what I have seen and experienced during those 60 years of being outside more than I was inside.
Here on Lightnin’ Ridge, there is still a dove nest or two I know about, and likely some I don’t know about. When the “guns of way before autumn” begin banging away, many like those fledglings will die in the nest.
It is too hot in early September for me to even begin to want to hunt. It has been that way for 10 or fifteen years. I won’t take my Labrador out ever again in the heat encountered in early September, and if you do, you don’t care much about your dog. Retrievers love to retrieve ducks and pheasants, but not doves. Dove feathers ruin a young dog… he hates them in his mouth and throat. And between daylight and 10 a.m. on September the first, he needs about a gallon of water if the temperature soars into the 80s. It almost always does now, and way past 80.
Professional people planning game season openings and harvests need to know things change as the years go on and climate does not remain the same, for whatever reason. The dove season should open 17 to 20 days later than it does now. At that time, migrating doves will triple the number migrating through in the first week of the month. I won’t hunt doves until October, and then, mostly over water holes and small harvested grain fields. And in places where there might be two-dozen hunters this week on opening day, there will be none in October.
I know, there is tradition involved, but you can have the same father-son tradition beginning two or three weeks later than in the past. It is time for some game biologists who have not been around long to talk with some who have been around awhile, and look at what is happening. You shouldn’t hunt birds that still have young in the nest on opening day. And believe me, few young biologists trained by books in the classroom know that there is a tremendous difference in numbers of migrating doves that came through 40 years ago and today.
There is also a tremendous difference in wild duck migration all across various species. I know from what I have seen over the last 60 years. I will write more about mallards changing so much in another column. But biologists HAVE figured that out and altered seasons and limits to fit those changing habits.
Right now wood ducks and blue-winged teal are both early migrators. A two week season for teal usually opening in mid-September worked great decades ago when it all began, but right now teal are migrating a little later than they once did, and wood ducks are migrating earlier. Common sense tells you that lots of wood ducks are killed during that teal special season and left in the marsh. Why not run the teal season the last week of September and the first week of October, and let wood ducks be included in the bag limit. So many of today’s waterfowlers cannot tell the difference in the two species flying by at 30 yards in broad daylight, let alone at dawn and dusk. Why allow so many accidentally killed wood ducks to be left in the marshes for the eagles.
This needs to be done now…but it won’t be. Today’s experts on migration, doves and waterfowl, need to find some of yesterday’s experts. If you learn what you know from one chapter of a book, you need to learn from two chapters out in the fields, woods and marshes. Times have changed, weather has changed, seasons have change, and wild creatures have changed. We need to change the way we look at hunting seasons for migrating birds. I’ll continue this in a later column about mallards and geese.
Some people have laughed at what I wrote about a couple of weeks ago, concerning the Department of Conservation giving me and a certain group of landowners 10 free deer permits and offering hundreds of dollars to have them all processed, over the next few months through most of the winter. It was a column written in all seriousness. I have put the letter and forms sent to me by that agency, on my BlogSpot for all to see. And for those in certain regions of the state, the same privilege can be gained with a phone call.
I have placed those letters also in my fall magazine, and an article telling about why they are doing that. And NO, I did not register my land with the MDC. And I will not. That website where you can see those letters on a computer screen is larrydablemontoutdoors.blogspot.com. If you want to see that fall magazine, email me at lightninridge47@gmai l.com or call my office, 417-777-5227.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Larry Dablemont is an outdoor writer from Bolivar, Mo.