HIT OR MISS
Dove season opens Friday statewide, a day eagerly anticipated by many hunters, but another cooler and wetter-than-normal August in Oklahoma has the opening day forecast looking a bit dreary.
“It's not looking just real great right now,” said Josh Richardson, migratory bird biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “It's not because of bird numbers. We still have lots of birds around. A lot of birds produced this summer, but this cool and wet weather is not good for hunting.
“There will be birds still flying around and people will shoot some, but the last couple of weeks, the cool and wet weather seemed to scatter them out and change their flight patterns. It makes trying to set up a dove field pretty hard, too.
“You get seeds down on the ground (in an agriculture field) and it will get rain and they will either spoil or sprout before the season starts. Once that happens, doves are not all that interested in it."
Dove hunters may have difficulty finding a field that the birds are still feeding in, Richardson said.
"If I were to give folks guidance, I would probably tell them to find a little more natural, native plant sort of food source instead of wheat or something like that," he said.
Targeting a watering hole for doves also is difficult when there are hundreds of puddles for them to choose from every square mile.
While the cool August weather is a godsend for most Oklahomans, dove hunters will be praying for a few really hot days before Friday.
“If we could get three or four good hot days before the season starts up, that would be what it takes to get birds up into good flocks and moving as a unit,” Richardson said.
“Doves are really gregarious birds. The hotter weather really concentrates their movements at first light and in the evening. So, if you get hot weather and birds concentrated again, it (hunting) will pick up, but it's not looking real great on the forecast I am seeing.”
Dove hunting is always hit or miss, but the less-than-ideal weather conditions will make it even more so opening weekend. Scouting will be even more important, and using dove decoys could help hunters.
Sept. 2 and 3 will be the state's annual free hunting days, so hunters living in Oklahoma will not need to carry a state hunting license or HIP permit. Nonresident hunters above the age of 14, however, will still need both a hunting license and HIP.
By mid-September, almost everyone is ready to move on to the deer archery season, which opens Oct. 1. After mid-September, few people are still shooting doves.
But when Dec. 1 arrives, that may change. Oklahoma will get 20 more dove hunting days in December and in future years.
Oklahoma has had a nine-day dove season in December around Christmas in recent years, but now dove season will reopen Dec. 1 and run through Dec. 29.
Oklahoma's additional dove hunting days in December are a result of a change to the national dove harvest strategy and the federal guidelines that states use when setting hunting seasons.
Most doves migrate through Oklahoma during the first several weeks of September, depending on the weather. But Oklahoma has a smaller population of resident mourning, white-winged and Eurasian collared doves that remain through winter.
The additional December days will give quail and pheasant hunters something else to shoot when in the field.
While the cooler and wetter-than-normal August has dampened the dove hunting outlook, it has the Sept. 9 teal season opener looking more promising.
"I haven't seen a lot of teal around yet, but I would definitely start expecting seeing teal any day now," Richardson said.
Dates: Sept. 1 through Oct. 31 and Dec. 1-29, statewide.
Daily limit: 15, which includes a combination of mourning, white-winged and fully dressed Eurasian collared doves. However, there is no bag limit on Eurasian collared doves provided the head and one fully feathered wing remain attached to the carcass.