The upcoming Sept. 1 dove hunting season kicks off the first part of Pennsylvania’s small game season.
Dove populations within the U.S. are estimated at 350 million with over 20 million harvested annually by hunters.
Doves are the most abundant game birds in North America and in Pennsylvania alone, hunters take over 100,00 yearly.
Despite these numbers We wish there was better news. when the season kicks off for a split season that runs until Nov. 27 and reopens again Dec. 18-Jan. 2. It’s also the date when the early Canada goose season also opens which runs until Sept. 25.
This pessimism is the result of a loss of habitat and hunting lands that fell prey to warehouses and housing developments by greedy, land grabbing developers.
In Lehigh County, the primary dove hunting opportunities are on State Game Lands #205 in Lowhill Township where the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) traditionally plants wildlife food crops.
If you do some intense searching, you may be lucky to find a farm to hunt after acquiring permission to hunt in upper Lehigh and Northampton counties.
Compared to those counties, upper Berks County has more open farm lands where most are owned by Mennonite farmers who will often give hunting permission if appropriately approached.
If new to dove hunting in Pennsylvania, and besides the general hunting license, hunters age 12 and older need a state migratory bird license. Fluorescent orange is not required but there are other important regulations.
According to the PGC, agricultural crops and natural vegetation may be manipulated to improve dove hunting. Manipulation means the alteration of agricultural crops or natural vegetation by activities such as mowing, shredding, disking, rolling, chopping, trampling, flattening, burning, or herbicide treatments. Manipulation does not include the distributing or scattering of seeds, grains, or other feed after removal from or storage on the field where grown. Manipulation does not include the placement of grain in piles or other artificial concentrations. In Pennsylvania, the manipulation of the crop or vegetation for purposes of dove hunting must be done no later than September 15th each year.
You may hunt doves over manipulated grain crops, such as wheat, milo, sorghum, millet, sunflower, and buckwheat. Although you can hunt doves over manipulated agricultural crops, you cannot hunt waterfowl or other wildlife species over manipulated agricultural crops except after the field has been subject to a normal harvest and removal of grain recognized as a normal agricultural process. A managed dove field, which has had a crop manipulated, is off limits to hunting of all other species until 30 days after the manipulated grain and/or its residue is removed from the field.
Agricultural activities other than planting or harvesting also scatter grain or other feed in agricultural areas. You can hunt doves in such areas provided the agricultural operation involved is a normal agricultural practice. A normal agricultural planting is a planting undertaken for the purpose of producing or gathering a crop. Normal plantings do not involve the placement of grain in piles or other concentrations. You cannot, however, hunt in an area where grain, salt, or other feed has been placed to improve dove hunting.
I used to look forward to dove hunting with my son who when he was a teen 30 years ago, managed to shoot doubles on dove at a sunflower field in Macungie. A fete I never accomplished. It was a great mentoring and memorable dove hunting trip that will probably never again be realized since that field now houses homes and a nearby strip mall while our other huntable places saddenly also dried up.
The daily dove limit is 15 with 45 in possession. Incidentally, their dark meat makes delightful table fare, especially if wrapped in bacon and cooked on a grille. I miss that too.
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.