With warm temperatures, it’s difficult to think about hunting. Even fishing isn’t that good during these times. But come Monday, September 2, the traditional dove and early goose season kicks off.
Since dove are somewhat easier to hunt this time of year, we’ll focus on them as corn and soybean crops are still standing which makes those fields not conducive to goose hunting methods.
As common, this years dove season comes in two separate seasons. The first phase runs from Sept. 2 – Nov. 29, then again on Dec. 21-Jan. 4. Hunting hours start at noon during the first phase and reverts to normal hunting hours thereafter.
Actually our September dove season is customarily shared with 40 of the lower 48 states and combined has a population of approximately 300 million, the most abundant game species in the country. Of this number, hunters countrywide take between 15-20 million birds who replenish their numbers annually.
The mourning dove is a member of the family Columbidae and is closely related to the rock dove or domestic pigeon. It breeds across all of the lower 48 states. Contrary to some thinking, doves do not damage crops as deer and bear do. They prefer to eat on the ground, typically twice a day, once in the morning and again in late afternoon. They primarily feed on weed seeds such as that from foxtail, thistle and occasionally, a few insects, snails and slugs. And when harvested, waste grains from corn, wheat, millet, sorghum, barley and sunflowers that the mechanical harvesters leave behind. But sunflower seeds are one of their favorite if they can find them.
Later in the day doves customarily pick grit to aid in digestion. Grit can be in the form of gravel, cinders, glass bits or any other small material. That’s why you’ll see them on roadways and gravel parking lots picking away. When not doing that, they’ll be perched on utility wires or in trees, dead branches and may take an occasional drink at a pond, creek or puddles of standing water. These are the places hunters have to look for in the countryside’s where dove could have a flyway and roosting habitat. But with standing corn crops and soybeans, you don’t want to traipse through those looking for a downed dove. In situations like this, it would be beneficial to have a good hunting dog for retrieval, or, only shoot when the doves fly from standing crops towards open fields.
While dove hunting in Lehigh County has become a chore of finding a place to hunt with all the new developments and warehouses that cropped up in rural areas, for those who don’t have a spot, best bet is to try SGL #205 off Route 100 in Lowhill Township. In several places there the game commission plants food plots for wildlife with the latter offering a Managed Dove area. But expect lots of company.
You may also want to head down to upper Berks between Topton, Lyons and the outskirts of Fleetwood where many Mennonite farmers may allow you to hunt their vast farmlands with permission of course In fact some farms have Farm/Game Co-Op signs posted showing that they allow hunting. Also in Berks is a Managed Dove area at Blue Marsh Lake. Check the PGC’s website for other locations.
The second best part of dove hunting is making their olive-oil basted, bacon-wrapped breasts on a grille. The dark meat of a dove breast is a dinner delight. Just remember when going afield to take lots of shells (and bug/tick spray). You’ll likely need them as dove’s dip, dive and put on the afterburners when a load of No. 8 non-toxic shot is coming their way.
Nick Hromiak has been an outdoors and automotive writer for over 30 years. He's been published in numerous national and state-wide outdoor magazines and newspapers.