With temperatures predicted to be in the 80s, it’ll be a sweaty dove season opener getting underway Monday, Sept. 2.
This is the first of a triple-split season with the first segment ending Saturday, Sept. 28 when hunting hours run from noon to sunset.
Other segments of the split season run from Oct. 26 – Nov. 30 and from Dec. 26 – Jan. 1, with hunting hours set at a half hour before sunrise to sunset. The daily bag limit is each segment is 15 birds with a possession limit of 45.
At the same time, the early goose season kicks off and runs to Sept. 25. Daily bag limits are eight but the possession limit has been increased to 24. Shooting hours for the Sept. season are a half hour before sunrise to a half hour after sunset, except for Sept. 14 and 21 when the season overlaps with the youth waterfowl hunting days. On those days shooting hours end at sunset.
There are special regulations that include smaller bag and possession limits in a few areas of the state, and they vary, so it’s best to check the regulations when purchasing a duck stamp for waterfowl hunting.
As for dove, our most abundant game bird, the warm weather is not conducive to a fun day afield when most of the time will be spent chasing pesky flies from around the head or wiping perspiration from the eyes. And with dove opening at noon, this is the time when the bugs are really buzzing. And don’t forget about ticks. An ample dose of Permethrin spray on your clothes helps keep them at bay.
It’s not new news that dove hunting areas are hard to find. If there’s a flyway where good populations of doves hangout, there’s probably a housing development nearby which prevents pursuing these fast flyers.
In Lehigh County, hunters can try State Game Lands 205 off Route 100 in Lowhill Township, as it’s the safest bet. But expect lots of company. It’s not uncommon to have hunters there from the Philadelphia area. But you may try other surrounding farmlands, after getting permission.
Other attractive areas are in upper Berks County from Topton, Kutztown to Kempton, where large tracts of farmland, many owned by Mennonite or Amish families, are abundant and will often allow hunting.
Traveling the road from the Landis Store area to Dryville in Berks County recently, I passed a large field of sunflowers. A prime dove hangout as they love to eat sunflower seeds. Sorghum fields are another dove hot spot where you can walk the edges for a flush or take a stand at a location to ambush them when they fly into the field.
If you’ve never tried dove hunting, it’s a challenging and fast-paced sport, particularly if you’re in a flyway or hunting near a feeding area that includes freshly cut wheat fields. The common method of hunting doves is to stand along a tree line and pass shoot. Or, if you don’t like standing, sitting or waiting, walking the edges of cornfields will often flush a dove or two that have been picking grit or just snoozing among the stalks that provide some cooling cover from the sun. But if downing a dove in a cornfield, visually mark the spot and quickly retrieve it and put it on ice.
Most hunters will use #8 shot in their 12-gauge smoothbores as it doesn’t take large shot to bring down a good eating (breasts wrapped in bacon and grilled) dove.
For still hunters along a tree line, plastic decoys are effective in luring doves in. Clipping a few decoys on limbs of a dead tree or bush, or, using a decoy tree along a field edge particularly where there’s a visible (for the birds) opening in the tree line, can draw birds in.
Hunter’s Edge (www.hunters-edge.com) recently came out with two nifty dove decoys. One is a Wing-It single decoy hand-painted in seven lifelike colors with patent-pending photographic wings that flap even in the slightest breeze. They attach with metal clips to trees or brush and come with a 24-inch collapsible stake for easy positioning.
The other is what they’ve named a Dove Feeding Frenzy that simulates doves feeding on the ground. The merry-go-round type set-up features a motorized base that rotates three Wing-It doves in a circular motion, mimicking typical dove behavior as when females are trying to feed while the male chases and fights one another. Check YouTube for a demonstration.
If you’re a veteran dove hunter, you may be getting a survey from the PA Game Commission which will ask about your dove hunting experiences and opinions on dove hunting. Topics include hunter characteristics, time spent hunting, constraints to hunting and thoughts about potential effects of spent lead from ammo while hunting doves and other wildlife.
The PGC says hunters are encouraged to fill out and send in the survey so the commission can use it for the management and conservation of migratory birds.
Goose hunting is another matter altogether. It appears there are more smaller (10-12 birds) flocks scattered throughout Lehigh and Northampton counties and they’re tough to pattern. Standing crop fields also pose a problem. Some dedicated hunters get permission to hunt cornfields and put up goose decoys on poles. Or, if you can locate a cut hay field, you may get some action with a layout of decoys. Then there are those who merely pass shoot from a tree line where birds travel to and from feeding areas.
Hunters should keep in mind they need a migratory game bird license ($3.70) to hunt dove and a federal duck stamp to hunt geese and ducks.
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