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Thanksgiving Holiday Dove Hunts -Short But Sweet

During the middle portion of the 2017 dove hunting season, Thanksgiving Day and the two weekends that bookend the holiday provide the most seasonal fun for hunters. There are other holiday hunting options during Thanksgiving week too since deer season continues, and duck and quail seasons are open, but dove hunts offer the best opportunity for socializing within the hunt party. The Thanksgiving week To Do list includes a condensed work schedule, family obligations and extended meal times, all of which can pinch any plans to hunt doves. So when a group of friends can gather for even a short dove hunt, in the early morning or late afternoon, that window of time spent in the outdoors is hard to beat.
Planning for dove hunting begins in summer or early fall with agricultural practices, planting fields with grain crops. Corn, sunflowers and sorghum are just a few of the most popular plantings that attract these game birds. Shooting hours are from one-half hour before sunrise until sunset and the daily bag limit per hunter is 15 doves. Hunters needs a valid S.C. license and a HIP migratory bird permit in order to dove hunt, and they must keep their license with them in the field. The state of S.C does provide some public dove areas, but most are not open on holidays, so hunting private land at Thanksgiving is more likely.
Planning for a Thanksgiving holiday hunt requires more than one might think, just like most worthwhile hunt endeavors. Dove fields require upkeep, meaning that the habitat can get stagnant for birds if it is not managed routinely by exposing fresh dirt, burning off grass strips or providing feed using legal guidelines. The lead up to a holiday hunt plan can be just as exciting as the hunt, except for things like the unexpected flat tire on the tractor, and a lack of doves throughout the Lowcountry since Hurricane Matthew blew though. Hoping for doves is a common sentiment shared among hunters this time of year!
What else is gong on at a dove hunt besides the chance to shoot a few shotgun shells? Food, fellowship, football and canine retrievers at work all come to mind. Perhaps stress relief comes from sitting on a dove stool and being a part of the team that is needed to keep the doves flying. The afternoon dove hunt I attended on the weekend before Thanksgiving included a meal of barbecue, green beans and macaroni for after the hunt. Eating a few venison snack sticks in the field did little to quench the anticipation of eating a hearty meal once the hunt ended, and with the shorter daylight hours, we did not have to wait too long.
While there weren’t enough birds at the hunt for me to limit out, I managed to pick up four doves and knocked another one down that I could not find to retrieve. The weather was pleasant, and the birds flew at such a random rate that one needed to stay attentive to when the next flight would appear. Communication with other hunters goes on via shouts and smart phones, making sure all the angles are covered. Everyone in the field realized that this short hunt is providing an outdoor holiday memory, especially the fellow shooting a new shotgun for the first time.
Dove hunting opportunities seem to be dwindling in general, so it is always smart to keep in touch with hunting friends heading into the Thanksgiving holiday, to see who might be staying in town for the holiday. If there is a chance that a last minute dove hunt might be held, you have to be able to pull a few folks together. Being ready on standby for a dove hunt might make the difference whether an invitation to hunt doves comes your way. I know I hope to return to the dove field on Thanksgiving Day and am grateful for the afternoon hunting invitation from a longtime hunting friend and fellow dove enthusiast. Will there be enough doves? I hope so, but on a Turkey Day dove hunt with family and friends, the number of doves flying may not be the thing that matters most.
With dove season closing on Saturday, November 25 it presents the opportunity to feed the grey birds and complete more fine-tuning of dove fields. The final chapter of dove season will be from December 15 through January 15, which offers more holiday hunts at Christmas, with the most promise coming later during January. Colder weather could drive the doves to congregate to feed a bit more, and with woodland corn piles dwindling down at the end of deer season, this means that dove fields can attract more birds in a shorter time. Keeping vigilant and watchful for the arrival of doves is paramount during the holidays and into the New Year.
Jeff Dennis is a Lowcountry native. Read his blog at LowcountryOutdoors.com

Jeff Dennis, Contributor (305 Posts)

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