The first part of the small game season traditionally gets underway on the first day of September, and this is when dove and geese become legal game. This year, Sept 1 falls on Saturday, which is great for hunters as it’s a weekend.
These fast flyers are challenging birds to hunt and down as they offer every conceivable wing shot. In flight there are incomers, outgoers, quartering left, quartering right, in front, crossing behind and directly overhead. No other gamebird offers these type of shots. And because of their unpredictable flight patterns, it’s been said that it takes seven shot shells to down one bird.
But the secondary challenge in dove hunting is finding where to hunt them. In Lehigh County, dove hunting possibilities are thin. Thanks to warehouse and housing developers, a good number of former dove habitat is gone. I recall hunting with my - at the time – pre-teen son many moons ago in a sunflower field across from Mack Trucks in Macungie. That was the best dove hunting I ever experienced. We got our limits and in fact my son got his first-ever double. That spot is long gone to development as is the entire area.
Breinigsville too, was always a hot spot but I don’t have to tell you what’s there now and what created heavy tractor trailer traffic. Limeport was another good dove area. Now most of it is homes.
The only dove possibilities are on the northern tier of Lehigh in Lynn, Weisenberg and Lowhill townships and of course State Game Land #205 in Lowhill where it’s located off Route 100.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission has Managed Dove Fields where land managers plant food and cover plots for the birds. These areas can be found on the agencies’ website under Hunt, then check Waterfowl & Migratory Game Bird sites. Click on the game land symbol to the area you’d like to hunt and it will show where the area is. The closest I found was in Berks County at Blue Marsh Lake.
In Northampton County, best bet is if you spot a likely farm and get permission from the farmer or landowner, try it. Otherwise its SGL #168 along the Blue Mountain.
Since there is more farm land in upper Berks County around Topton and Lyons, most of which is primarily owned by Mennonites who customarily don’t sell their land, I’ve seen a good many doves perched on utility lines when driving back- roads there.
As it’s the most hunted game bird in North America, hunters need to find their favorite natural meals. Ninety percent of dove meals consist of seeds like from foxtail, ragweed, pineseed, pokeweed, wheat, oats, soybean, sunflower and believer it or not considering their small mouths, corn.
Their flyways normally are from roosting to eating to picking grit then watering. If you can find similar areas, you may have a dove spot.
Dove season runs from Sept. 1- Nov. 24 and again from Dec. 18 – Jan. 5. Daily limits are 15 with a possession limit of 45.
As for Canada geese, they’re even tougher to hunt right now with all the standing corn and soybean fields. For them it’s a crap shoot as to where they’re putting down right now to eat. Until more crops are harvested, goose hunting will be tough. Their season runs Sept 1 – Sept. 25 with a daily limit of one and possession limit of three.
Hunters don’t forget, a migratory stamp is needed to hunt doves and a Duck Stamp for geese.
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.