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Dove Hunting Late Season Begins on December 28

A late-season dove and plenty of shotgun shells.

Each year the hunting seasons and regulations for hunting migratory birds are formulated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The federal government provides a framework of dates for an individual state to choose from, and this year the last leg of dove season is running a little later than usual. S.C. Department of Natural Resources shifted the late dove season, so there can be no Christmas Day dove hunts, but once the season opens on December 28, it will run two weeks longer than usual and won’t conclude until January 30, 2020.
In recent memory, the late dove season has run from December 15 until January 15. Most small game hunters agree that the cold of winter sometimes doesn’t build up sufficiently by mid-January and that extending the dove hunting season would be beneficial. Cold weather requires doves to eat more and stay active to keep warm, which means they are more likely to come to fields prepared for dove hunts. A couple of extra weekend hunts for doves in 2020 means that if doves congregate in good numbers due to late cold fronts, wingshooters can spend some extra time in the outdoors.
Losing the traditional Christmas day dove hunt is a trade-off to shifting and elongating the dove season. Even though the bag limit of doves remains 15 doves per hunter per day, overall dove numbers are average at best, and doves can be especially fickle in the late season. When your humble correspondent was a young man, Christmas day dove hunts in Western Colleton County were common. Lots and lots of doves were reliable back then, so invitations to come hunt could be issued, and usually, the affair ended with a barbecue pig pickin’. I was shooting a single-shot 20-gauge shotgun on one such hunt when I was a youth, and those holiday dove hunting memories still resonate with me today.
Fast forward to hunting doves in January of 2020, hunters need to be watchful for migratory dove migrations, and they need to be active in their dove field management. Some believe that they can do something nearly every day to improve what their field offers doves. The ground can be hard when it freezes, but doves prefer patches of fresh clean dirt so it is still important to disc here and there in January. Often the grain sources in the field have dwindled by late season, but managers can release what is left by burning off the weeds and stubble that remain. Remember to disc all the way around the field before lighting a fire. A nearby source of water is a good way to attract doves to your hunting area, especially if it is a dry year like in 2019.
Rather than looking to score a 15-dove limit during a late-season hunt, a better goal would be to just get enough birds to make a meal with. The hunting can be a little slow at times, making it a great time to get youth out in the field with a mentor. During our last dove hunt last year, on Saturday, January 12, a youth hunter killed his first-ever dove to make that hunt a success. Hunters don’t go to the dove field in search of peace, but the time spent in the field with canine companions and hunting buddies is still valuable. Sprinkle in some other social traditions like following college football bowl games, and you have the ingredients for a Lowcountry late-season dove hunt.
Jeff Dennis is a Lowcountry native. Read his blog at LowcountryOutdoors.com

Jeff Dennis
Jeff Dennis, Contributor (385 Posts)

Jeff Dennis is a Lowcountry native. Read his blog at www.LowcountryOutdoors.com