The mourning dove is a streamlined plump bird with a small head. It has a long, pointed tail with a brownish back flecked with black spots and the breast is tan to light rose. The white edged tail feathers are visible when it spreads its tail. The feet and legs are light red to light purple.
The bird’s preferred habitat varies. Its diet includes a variety of weed seeds, sunflower seeds and various domestic grains. The dove breeds from late March to September. The dove is found statewide. There is a resident population of doves in Oklahoma but the majority of birds migrate from Canada and the northern states, through Oklahoma, down to Mexico.
Many an hour has been spent beside a pond or along the edge of a plowed field awaiting the swift arrival of this quick and elusive game bird. Traditions have been built on dove hunts past and dreams are made of dove hunts future.
Four Steps to Better Dove Hunting
1. Location, Location, Location
Finding the food and water resources that dove prefer is key when it comes to finding dove. Focus on fields top seeded with wheat, fields of sunflower, cut or standing corn, and harvested sorghum. Never overlook water sources; ponds and stock tanks provide equally great hunting. Hunting water sources works best in dry areas like southwest and northwest Oklahoma, where water may be scarce. After a heavy rain, keep in mind ponds may be flooded and will not provide the birds with adequate bank access, forcing them to look elsewhere.
|Tip: For early season hunts, set decoys on and near a stock tank for a late afternoon or evening hunt. Stock tanks are generally near food sources and early season temperatures are hot, especially in late afternoon and early evening, forcing dove to hydrate often.|
On many Wildlife Management Areas, fields of wheat and sunflowers are often mowed in preparation of dove season. If hunting public land, contact the area's biologist for information.
Oklahoma offers hunters an abundance of excellent dove hunting opportunities. Before planning your next trip, consider these Wildlife Management Areas as your next dove hunting destination.
A hunter who scouts, always has the advantage. Mornings and evenings are the best times to scout because that is when birds are typically off their roost. Start with areas that have been productive in the past and search for fields with a concentration of birds. Pay attention to the direction birds are coming from and what their travel route is. Often, dove will fly along tree lines when entering a field. This is where hunters should set up.
Having a "plan B" is critical. Scout around for several fields, giving you more options. Keep in mind water sources and even gravel pits can host concentrations of birds. Doing your homework will certainly tip the odds in your favor.
|Tip: Dead trees are dove magnets. Use decoys to help the dove feel more secure about perching in a particular area. Situate yourself in nearby shadows or behind the tree for better concealment|
Go beyond the basics and invest in dove decoys. Elevated decoys are key. On the ground, decoys disappear among the vegetation so keeping them elevated ensures the doves will see them. While scouting different areas, pay attention to where birds are landing. This is where you’ll want to place your decoys.
Doves have excellent vision. Camouflage isn't a must have item however it helps tremendously. Choose camouflage most suited to your surroundings or dress in a tan or olive color outfit. If you don't have camouflage, that's ok. If possible, conceal yourself in shadows our under tree branches. Most importantly, stay still!
While dove hunting may sometimes be fast and furious often there will be breaks in the action and you will want to sit down. Trying to rise and shoot from a sitting position on the ground can be difficult so a small stool or bucket (even better, one with a spinning seat) is nearly essential.
Another helpful item is a vest or bucket (again) to help carry equipment and any bagged birds. Some areas (mainly private) can be driven to to unload everything, but most areas require hunters to walk at least a small distance. Decoys, a couple boxes of shells, your gun, water and any other necessities gets to be quite an armful.
Don't forget your water! September and even into October in Oklahoma can be hot, usually you are positioned in or near an opening where shade is often limited and you will be sweating (probably a lot). Remember to bring some water with you. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are real possibilities that can endanger you and those you are hunting with. Stay hydrated, stay safe, and have fun.
Any attempts at bagging a bird are futile without the right combination of shotgun, ammunition, and choke.
20 and 12 gauge shotguns are the most widely used shotguns for dove hunting. When it comes to action types, the semi-automatic action gives hunters an advantage over pump and break actions. Semi-automatic shotguns have less recoil and shoot quicker than pump actions. Break actions are similar to semi-autos in that the shooter doesn’t have to pump a new shell into the chamber. However, break actions have the inability to hold more than two shells, which means more reloading. Remember, doves are a migratory bird, and all guns used for migratory bird hunting are restricted to 3 shells. Therefore, you're actually only gaining one additional shot with a semi or pump compared to a break double gun.
|Tip: 20 gauge shotguns compared to 12 gauges are lighter and have less recoil. If using a 12 gauge, consider a shoulder recoil pad.|
More important than anything is ammunition. Proper ammunition adds to a hunter’s probability of a clean hit and reduces the chance of a bird being wounded and dying some days later. Dove should be taken with #8, #7 ½, or #7 shot. Choose ammunition that fires the most pellets at the highest velocity possible. More pellets increase the chance of a clean hit and higher velocity gives hunters a shorter lead.
|Tip: Bring an assortment of ammunition. The range at which dove come in will likely change. Larger (#7) shot better retains energy, perfect for shy birds. However, smaller shot (#8) has more pellets and produces a more dense pattern, great for closer birds.|
Don't forget about the choke. To keep the shot pattern tight but also effective, start with an improved cylinder and switch to a modified choke for a tighter spread if needed. Full chokes may be necessary during late season hunts when birds seem more timid.
More Migratory Game Bird Hunting Information
FAQ's Regarding HIP and Crane Permits in Oklahoma
ANSWERS TO COMMONLY ASKED QUESTION REGARDING HARVEST INFORMATION PROGRAM (HIP) AND SANDHILL CRANE PERMITS (SHC)
A - All migratory game bird hunters, including lifetime license holders who hunt migratory birds, must obtain, complete and carry a HIP permit while hunting migratory birds. Hunters under 16 years of age, senior citizens (age 64 or older or those who turn 64 during the calendar year in which they intend to hunt migratory birds) and landowners hunting only on their own property are exempt from the HIP permit requirements.
A - Anyone hunting sandhill cranes is required to obtain a Sandhill Crane Permit. No exemptions.
A - HIP and SHC permits are federally required permits. These permits provide a method by which the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) obtain the names and addresses of all migratory game bird hunters required to obtain the permits. From these lists, a sample of Oklahoma hunters are sent a federal harvest survey questionnaire so that reliable estimates of the number of all migratory birds harvested in the state and throughout the country are possible. These estimates give biologists the information they need to make sound decisions concerning hunting seasons, bag limits, and population management. Bottom Line:Without good estimates of the harvest of migratory game birds, continuation of hunting seasons on these species is jeopardized. Scientifically sound and defensible estimates of harvest are essential to maintain harvest opportunity for the future.
A - The SHC permit is a longstanding federal permit required since sandhill crane seasons were initiated in the 1960's. It is considered one of the best harvest surveys in the world, and sandhill cranes are a species which is especially sensitive to harvest pressure, and which are carefully monitored due to their relatively small overall population size. The SHC permit will continue in addition to the HIP permit until the best way is determined to incorporate sandhill cranes into the HIP survey and still maintain the reliability of harvest survey estimates that are currently available from the existing SHC permit and survey.
Bottom Line: We expect that the SHC permit will eventually be combined with the HIP permit but for the near future they remain as separate permits and harvest surveys.
A - Both HIP and SHC permits are required by the Service. In order to continue to be able to offer hunting opportunity on these species, states must require all migratory game bird hunters (unless exempt) to obtain a HIP permit andeveryone that hunts sandhill cranes to obtain a SHC permit. They must have these permits in their possession while hunting. The ODWC is then required to provide the Service a list of the names and addresses of everyone obtaining a permit. In order to defray the administrative cost of the ODWC issuing the permits and then providing a complete list of all federally permitted migratory game bird hunters in Oklahoma and to compensate license vendors for issuing the permits, it was decided a fee was necessary. However, beginning July 1, 2004, HIP permits can be obtained free of charge online at www.wildlifedepartment.com. HIP permits obtained from any ODWC license vendor will continue to cost $3 with $1 of the fee going to the license vendor. Bottom Line: Instead of general ODWC revenue covering the administrative costs of the permits, a user based (migratory game bird hunters) fee was initiated to provide for the collection of this important information and insure the continued proper management and maximization of hunting opportunity for migratory game birds.
A -Both permits are valid from July 1 through the following June 30. Similar to a federal or state duck stamp, HIP and SHC permits are good for the whole migratory bird season. All licensed migratory game bird hunters and all sandhill crane hunters must annually obtain the necessary permits. HIP and SHC permits valid for the next year's seasons are available beginning July 1 each year.
A - Both HIP and SHC permits can be obtained from any license vendor as part of the Universal License form. Also, both permits are available online at the goOutdoors Oklahoma website at www.wildlifedepartment.com.
Summary of Federal Regulations in Regards to Migratory Game Birds
The following is a synopsis of Federal Regulations that pertain to the hunting of migratory game birds. When State law is different from the following Federal law the hunter must comply with the most restrictive law.
What terms do I need to understand?Migratory Birds are birds protected by federal law as a result of treaties signed with other countries. Protected migratory birds are listed in Title 50 Code of Federal Regulations, Section. 10.13. This list includes almost all birds found in the United States with the exception of the English sparrow, feral pigeon (commonly called rock doves), European starling, Eurasian collard doves, Mute Swan, and upland game birds (which are protected by state laws).
All migratory birds are protected. However, a subset of migratory birds classified as migratory game birds and may be hunted in accordance with State and Federal regulations. The list of migratory game birds includes species of ducks, geese (including brant), swans, doves and pigeons, cranes, rails, coots, gallinules and moorhens, woodcock and snipe, if there is an open season.
Daily bag limit means the maximum number of migratory game birds of a single species or combination (aggregate) of species permitted to be taken by one person in any one day during the open season in any one specified geographic area for which a daily bag limit is prescribed.
Aggregate daily bag limit means the maximum number of migratory game birds permitted to be taken by one person in any one day during the open season when such person hunts in more than one specified geographic area and/or for more than one species for which a combined daily bag limit is prescribed. The aggregate daily bag limit is equal to, but shall not exceed, the largest daily bag limit prescribed for any one species or for any one specified geographic area in which taking occurs.
Possession limit means the maximum number of migratory game birds of a single species or a combination of species permitted to be possessed by any one person when lawfully taken in the United States in any one specified geographic area for which a possession limit is prescribed.
Aggregate possession limit means the maximum number of migratory game birds of a single species or combination of species taken in the United States permitted to be possessed by any one person when taking and possession occurs in more than one specified geographic area for which a possession limit is prescribed. The aggregate possession limit is equal to, but shall not exceed, the largest possession limit prescribed for any one of the species or specified geographic areas in which taking and possession occurs.
Personal abode means one’s principal or ordinary home or dwelling place, as distinguished from one’s temporary or transient place of abode or dwelling such as a hunting club, or any club house, cabin, tent or trailer house used as a hunting club, or any hotel, motel or rooming house used during a hunting, pleasure or business trip.
Migratory bird preservation facility means:
(1) Any person who, at their residence or place of business and for hire or other consideration; or
(2) Any taxidermist, cold-storage facility or locker plant which, for hire or other consideration; or
(3) Any hunting club which, in the normal course of operations; receives, possesses, or has in custody any migratory game birds belonging to another person for purposes of picking, cleaning, freezing, processing, storage or shipment.
Normal agricultural planting, harvesting, or post-harvest manipulation means a planting or harvesting undertaken for the purpose of producing and gathering a crop, or manipulation after such harvest and removal of grain, that is conducted in accordance with official recommendations of State Extension Specialists of the Cooperative Extension Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Normal agricultural operation means a normal agricultural planting, harvesting, post-harvest manipulation, or agricultural practice that is conducted in accordance with official recommendations of State Extension Specialists of the Cooperative Extension Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Normal soil stabilization practice means a planting for agricultural soil erosion control or post-mining land reclamation conducted in accordance with official recommendations of State Extension Specialists of the Cooperative Extension Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture for agricultural soil erosion control.
Baited area means any area on which salt, grain, or other feed has been placed, exposed, deposited, distributed, or scattered, if that salt, grain, or other feed could serve as a lure or attraction for migratory game birds to, on, or over areas where hunters are attempting to take them. Any such area will remain a baited area for ten days following the complete removal of all such salt, grain, or other feed.
Baiting means the direct or indirect placing, exposing, depositing, distributing, or scattering of salt, grain, or other feed that could serve as a lure or attraction for migratory game birds to, on, or over any areas where hunters are attempting to take them.
Manipulation means the alteration of natural vegetation or agricultural crops by activities that include but are not limited to mowing, shredding, discing, rolling, chopping, trampling, flattening, burning, or herbicide treatments. The term manipulation does not include the distributing or scattering of grain, seed, or other feed after removal from or storage on the field where grown.
Natural vegetation means any non-agricultural, native, or naturalized plant species that grows at a site in response to planting or from existing seeds or other propagules. The term natural vegetation does not include planted millet. However, planted millet that grows on its own in subsequent years after the year of planting is considered natural vegetation.
What hunting methods are illegal?
No persons shall take migratory game birds:
- With a trap, snare, net, rifle, pistol, swivel gun, shotgun larger than 10 gauge, punt gun, battery gun, machinegun, fish hook, poison, drug, explosive, or stupefying substance;
- With a shotgun of any description capable of holding more than three shells, unless it is plugged with a one-piece filler, incapable of removal without disassembling the gun, so its total capacity does not exceed three shells. This restriction does not apply during dates States haves selected under the Conservation Order for light geese (ie: greater and lesser snow and Ross’s geese).
- From or by means, aid, or use of a sinkbox or any other type of low floating device, having a depression affording the hunter a means of concealment beneath the surface of the water;
- From or by means, aid, or use of any motor vehicle, motor-driven land conveyance, or aircraft of any kind, except that paraplegics and persons missing one or both legs may take from any stationary motor vehicle or stationary motor-driven land conveyance;
- From or by means of any motorboat or other craft having a motor attached, or any sailboat, unless the motor has been completely shut off and/or the sails furled, and its progress there from has ceased:
- By the use or aid of live birds as decoys; although not limited to, it shall be a violation of this paragraph for any person to take migratory waterfowl on an area where tame or captive live ducks or geese are present unless such birds are and have been for a period of 10 consecutive days prior to such taking, confined within an enclosure which substantially reduces the audibility of their calls and totally conceals such birds from the sight of wild migratory waterfowl;
- By the use or aid of recorded or electrically amplified bird calls or sounds, or recorded or electrically amplified imitations of bird calls or sounds. This restriction does not apply during dates States haves selected under the Conservation Order for light geese (ie: greater and lesser snow and Ross’s geese).
- By means or aid of any motor driven land, water, or air conveyance, or any sailboat used for the purpose of or resulting in the concentrating, driving, rallying, or stirring up of any migratory bird;
- By the aid of baiting, or on or over any baited area, where a person knows or reasonably should know that the area is or has been baited.
It is legal to take migratory game birds including waterfowl, coots, and cranes, on or over the following lands or areas that are not otherwise baited areas:
- Standing crops or flooded standing crops (including aquatics);
- Standing, flooded, or manipulated natural vegetation; flooded harvested croplands; or lands or areas where seeds or grains have been scattered solely as the result of a normal agricultural planting, harvesting, post-harvest manipulation or normal soil stabilization practice;
- From a blind or other place of concealment camouflaged with natural vegetation;
- From a blind or other place of concealment camouflaged with vegetation from agricultural crops, as long as such camouflaging does not result in the exposing, depositing, distributing or scattering of grain or other feed; or
- Standing or flooded standing agricultural crops where grain is inadvertently scattered solely as a result of a hunter entering or exiting a hunting area, placing decoys, or retrieving downed birds.
It is legal to take migratory game birds, except waterfowl, coots and cranes, on or over lands or areas that are not otherwise baited areas, and where grain or other feed has been distributed or scattered solely as the result of manipulation of an agricultural crop or other feed on the land where grown, or solely as the result of a normal agricultural operation.
Wanton waste of migratory game birds No person shall kill or cripple any migratory game bird without making a reasonable effort to retrieve the bird, and retain it in his actual custody, at the place where taken or between that place and either (a) his automobile or principal means of land transportation; or (b) his personal abode or temporary or transient place of lodging; or (c) a migratory bird preservation facility; or (d) a post office; or (e) a common carrier facility.
Non-toxic Shot No person may take ducks, geese (including brant), and coots while possessing shot (either in shotshells or as loose shot for muzzleloading) other than approved non-toxic shot. For a list of approved non-toxic shot, see (https://www.fws.gov/birds/bird-enthusiasts/hunting/nontoxic.php)
Opening Day of a Season No person on the opening day of the season shall possess any freshly killed migratory game birds in excess of the daily bag limit, or aggregate daily bag limit, whichever applies.
Field Possession Limit No person shall possess, have in custody, or transport more than the daily bag limit or aggregate daily bag limit, whichever applies, of migratory game birds, tagged or not tagged, at or between the place where taken and either (a) his automobile or principal means of land transportation; or (b) his personal abode or temporary or transient place of lodging; or (c) a migratory bird preservation facility; or (d) a post office; or (e) a common carrier facility.
Tagging requirement No person shall put or leave any migratory game birds at any place (other than at his personal abode), or in the custody of another person for picking, cleaning, processing, shipping, transportation, or storage (including temporary storage), or for the purpose of having taxidermy services performed, unless such birds have a tag attached, signed by the hunter, stating his address, the total number and species of birds, and the date such birds were killed. Migratory game birds being transported in any vehicle as the personal baggage of the possessor shall not be considered as being in storage or temporary storage.
Custody of birds of another No person shall receive or have in custody any migratory game birds belonging to another person unless such birds are properly tagged.
Termination of possession Subject to all other requirements of this part, the possession of birds taken by any hunter shall be deemed to have ceased when such birds have been delivered by him to another person as a gift; or have been delivered by him to a post office, a common carrier, or a migratory bird preservation facility and consigned for transport by the Postal Service or a common carrier to some person other than the hunter.
Gift of migratory game birds No person may receive, possess, or give to another, any freshly killed migratory game birds as a gift, except at the personal abodes of the donor or donee, unless such birds have a tag attached, signed by the hunter who took the birds, stating such hunter's address, the total number and species of birds and the date such birds were taken.
Transportation of birds of another No person shall transport migratory game birds belonging to another person unless such birds are properly tagged.
Species identification requirement No person shall transport within the United States any migratory game birds, except doves and band-tailed pigeons, unless the head or one fully feathered wing remains attached to each such bird at all times while being transported from the place where taken until they have arrived at the personal abode of the possessor or a migratory bird preservation facility.
Marking package or container No person shall transport by the Postal Service or a common carrier migratory game birds unless the package or container in which such birds are transported has the name and address of the shipper and the consignee and an accurate statement of the numbers of each species of birds therein contained clearly and conspicuously marked on the outside thereof.
Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp The law requires that each waterfowl hunter 16 years of age and older must carry on his person a Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp (Federal Duck Stamp) that is validated by the hunter signing the stamp in ink across the face of the stamp.
More restrictive regulations may apply to National Wildlife Refuges opened to public hunting. For additional information on refuge specific regulations see http://www.fws.gov/refuges/
Dove Hunters We Need Your Help
Mourning Dove Banding Project
Mourning doves are one of the most widely distributed and abundant birds in North America. Mourning doves are also a popular game bird with hunting seasons established in 37 of the lower 48 states. There are more mourning doves harvested than all other migratory game bird species combined. In Oklahoma, an estimated 24,600 hunters harvested more than 480,000 mourning doves in 2007.
Because of the importance of the mourning dove as a migratory game bird, wildlife managers require certain information from which to guide harvest management decisions. Information on dove survival and harvest rates are keys to understanding the effects of annual hunting regulations on mourning dove populations. Banding is the primary tool used to obtain this information
This summer, Oklahoma along with all other states in the Central Management Unit (CMU), will be participating in a nationwide mourning dove banding program. The objectives of this program are to determine mourning dove harvest rates, estimate annual survival, and provide information on the geographical distribution of the harvest.
Doves will be marked with metal leg bands containing a unique number and a website that hunters can use to report the band. In return, wildlife managers receive important information on the number of banded doves harvested and location and date of harvest. More than 14,000 doves will be trapped and banded yearly in the 14 states of the CMU.
In Oklahoma, a number of dove banding sites will be established using wire funnel traps baited with grain to capture mourning doves. Banding sites will be pre-baited for a period of time in early summer to get doves accustomed to using a trapping site and then traps are set in late summer and actual banding commences. Doves enter the traps in search of the placed grain through funnel openings and cannot find their way back out because of the traps design. Traps are regularly checked and trapped doves are removed and carefully examined to determine their age and sex based upon feather color and patterns of feather replacement and wear. Doves are then banded with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service bands inscribed with unique numbers and the website and immediately released.
Hunters are a critical link in this mourning dove banding study. By checking all harvested doves for bands, and reporting banded doves, you help us manage this important migratory game bird resource. Because dove bands are very small, hunters can easily overlook them. We are asking dove hunters to carefully check all doves harvested for the presence of a leg band. If you harvest a banded mourning dove please report it by logging on tohttp://www.reportband.gov/. Banded doves may also be reported by phone by calling 1-800-327-BAND (2263). Hunters can keep the band and will be provided a certificate of appreciation that identifies who banded the bird, the age and sex of the bird, and the date and location where the bird was banded.
Migratory Game Bird Identification
- Common Snipe
- Doves (mourning, white-wing and Eurasian collared)
- Purple gallinule and common moorhen
- Sandhill Crane