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September means Dove Season is here

Nick Infinger in the dove field with his black lab.  Photo by Jeff Dennis

Nick Infinger in the dove field with his black lab.
Photo by Jeff Dennis

The first shots of the 2013 dove season rang out on Labor Day for some dove hunters, but most opening hunts will commence on Saturday, September 7. All across the Palmetto State, and across the Southeast, this largely social type of hunting will welcome scores of sportsmen back to the field. Experience from previous seasons will be applied to this year’s hunting conditions, and the smell of gunpowder will sharpen the senses.

The 2013 – 2014 mourning dove season begins September 2 – 7. During this opening week, the legal hunting hours are abbreviated from noon until sunset. Dove season continues September 8, through October 5, with shooting hours from thirty minutes before sunrise until sunset. The daily bag limit for doves is 15 birds per day.

Many hunters are always looking for a place to hunt doves, but the S.C. Department of Natural Resources offers some public dove hunting access right here in Colleton County. The Donnelly Wildlife Management Area has 80 acres of dove fields that are prepared by wildlife technicians for the public to use. Of course a WMA permit or Sportsman hunting license must be obtained in order to attend these free hunts. Youth-only dove hunts are offered at Botany Bay WMA on Edisto Island.

The hunting dates for September at Donnelly are September 7, 14 and 21, and a contact number at SCDNR for any questions is 843- 844-8957. These hunts are afternoon only hunts, and dove hunters will be limited to 50 shells apiece for each hunt. Other SCDNR public hunts are offered in Hampton County at the Webb Center WMA. A full list of public dove fields around the region can be found on the SCDNR website.

Early season doves fly lower and slower than later in the year, so these hunts are usually great for taking a youth or novice hunter along. A simple gear list includes a dove stool, shotgun, shells and some camo. Given the wet conditions, a pair of rubber boots may be in order for some dove fields, but conditions will vary. Bug spray, sunscreen and water to drink are extras that can make your day in the field a little more enjoyable.

Hunters love their hunting dogs, and dove season makes these canine companions light up again. It’s like the proverbial switch turning on when the dog sees his master rise up, swing his shotgun and shoot at the target. If the dog can see, or mark, the falling bird, then he will rely on his sense of sight and smell to guide him, so that he can fetch up the gamebird. For dog lovers, this first retrieve is a signal of success, and each successive retrieve will remind the owner of why using a canine is such a source of joy.

Some pro tips for all dove hunters includes trying to get in the field as early as possible in the afternoon, and then leave as early as possible, usually no later than 5 p.m., so that the remaining doves can come in and feed. Try to give a two-week interval between hunts for any one field, except during migration. No dove field is immune to hunting pressure because too much shooting will cause them to leave and not return, so a dove field manager must always keep an eye out for scheduling the next hunt.

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

Jeff Dennis, Contributor (343 Posts)

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