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Know The Rules for Dove Season

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

Jeff Dennis is a
Lowcountry native.
Read his blog at

The traditional start date for dove season is the first Saturday in September, which is usually part of Labor Day weekend and 2016 will not alter that blueprint. At noon on September 3, wingshooters will congregate in planted fields to try their luck at harvesting a limit of doves. Having success in a particular field year after year requires a strong commitment to habitat management that favors these fast-flying grey birds.
The legal limit per hunter for mourning doves has been reduced in 2016 to a 12-bird limit, down from the 15-bird limit utilized the past few years. Longtime dove hunters will recall that a 12-bird limit was in effect for decades until just a few years ago when they experimented with raising the limit on these migratory birds. For now, that change has been undone, and perhaps a measure of sustainability has been restored.

A dove hunter and his trusty retriever are ready for opening day. Photo by Jeff Dennis.

A dove hunter and his trusty retriever are ready for opening day. Photo by Jeff Dennis.

Hunters must possess an SCDNR hunting license and an HIP permit, which pertains to the harvest of any migratory bird. The first three days of the season will be abbreviated with legal shooting hours from 12 noon until sunset on Sept. 3 – 5. The remainder of the season runs from Sept. 6 through October 12, and shooting hours run from one-half hour before sunrise until sunset.
Many times during the warm weather in September the doves will fly best early in the morning or later in the afternoon. Doves tend to fly into a field at a certain time in order to feed, and weather patterns like rain do little to deter them. Therefore scouting any dove field before a hunt is conducive to having the most success. Don’t have time to scout? Go ahead and take your best guess and get out in the field, and try your luck getting into the right position at the right time.
Shotguns must be plugged so that they can only hold three shotgun shells at any one time for dove hunting. Baiting doves or hunting over bait is strictly prohibited. Lead shot is still OK to use when dove hunting, but non-toxic shot works well too. While the legal limit is 12 doves per hunter, it is allowable to share one’s harvest with someone, but the law states that no one may possess more than 36 doves total during transportation back home after the hunt.
The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) will offer 43 dove fields for public dove hunting this year. In addition, there will be seven youth-only dove hunts as well, and all the field locations and application information can be found on the SCDNR website. Individuals who plan to hunt on public dove fields will need a Wildlife Management Area permit, and they will be limited to taking only 50 shotguns shells with them into the field, and hunting is allowed only from noon until 6 p.m.
Other migratory bird seasons that are set include September dates for waterfowl, including Canada goose and teal. Beginning on Sept 9 and running for two weeks until Sept. 24, hunters may hunt blue-winged and green-winged teal from sunrise until sunset. The limit is 6 teal per hunter per day, with a possession limit of 18 teal. A pro tip for teal hunters is to be wary for any wood ducks that might be in the morning flight, since they are not legal to shoot in September.
Canada geese are increasing both their numbers and range in the Lowcountry and scouting of agricultural areas should yield valuable information about where to hunt for them. The early season for Canada geese runs the entire month of September, and most of these geese are local or resident population birds. Thus the liberal bag limit of 15 per day per hunter, with shooting hours one-half hour before sunrise until sunset. Don’t forget that a state migratory waterfowl permit and a federal duck stamp are required when hunting waterfowl.
For those who like to be on the water, September offers the start of marsh hen season, running from Sept. 17 – 21. Study the tide charts to choose a day when the flood tides bring these elusive gamebirds into view as the spartina marsh goes underwater. It’s legal to hunt them from one-half hour before sunrise until sunset and there is a 15-bird limit per hunter per day. Common moorhens and purple gallinules are also in season under the same rules. Good Luck Wingshooters!

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

Jeff Dennis, Contributor (389 Posts)

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