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Wildlife Management Areas offer prime Georgia dove hunting

When does the fall hunting season begin? Unofficially, many people bestow the opening day of dove season with that honor. With numerous wildlife management area (WMA) hunts scheduled, it is the perfect opportunity to introduce children and grandchildren to the sport. The Georgia dove season opens at noon on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013.

“Many WMAs provide fields managed specifically for dove so there is no lack of opportunity for desired locations,” says John W. Bowers, chief of Game Management. “Opening day typically is fun-filled, as many hunts involve cookouts and lots of activity, making it a great time to introduce family and friends to hunting.”

Many WMA public dove fields are reserved solely for quota hunts on opening day. Review dove hunting rules and regulations to ensure the availability of the field you plan to visit.

The official 2013-2014 dove seasons are Sept. 7-22, Oct. 12-20 and Nov. 28 – Jan. 11. Shooting hours are noon until sunset on opening day (Sept. 7) and one-half hour before sunrise to sunset for the remainder of the season dates. Sunrise and sunset times for each day are found in the 2013-2014 Georgia Hunting Seasons and Regulations guide or online at www.georgiawildlife.com/hunting/regulations.

The daily bag limit is 15 doves per hunter. White-winged doves may be harvested, but count toward the daily bag limit of 15.

Any autoloading or other repeating shotgun must be plugged to hold no more than three shotshells while hunting doves. As always, hunters must obtain permission from landowners before hunting on private property. Please respect the land by cleaning up spent shells, leaving gates the way they were found and removing all trash.

Dove hunters 16 years of age and older must possess a Georgia hunting license and a free Migratory Bird Harvest Information Program (HIP) Permit. When hunting on a WMA, you also must possess a WMA license. Hunters may purchase licenses online at www.georgiawildlife.com/licenses-permits-passes.com, by phone at 1-800-366-2661 or at more than 800 license agent locations (list of agents available online).

Updated and accurate harvest rate estimates facilitate the successful management of doves. In 2003, the U.S. Geological Survey, Biological Research Division and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in cooperation with several states, including Georgia, initiated an ongoing dove banding project. Hunters can participate in this conservation effort by examining harvested doves for leg bands and reporting band numbers to the USFWS by calling 1-800-327-BAND.

For more information on dove hunting rules and regulations, public dove fields and conditions, or adult/child dove hunts, hunters should review the 2012-2013 Georgia Hunting Seasons and Regulations guide, available at www.georgiawildlife.com/hunting/regulations or at any Wildlife Resources Division Game Management office.

Before You Head Into Thre Field

Before you head to the dove field this year, hunters should be sure to obtain the free Hunter Information Program (HIP) migratory bird license, according to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division. The license is available to hunters after they report previous year harvest rates via a short survey when a hunting license is purchased.

“Determining accurate harvest levels for game species, such as doves is critical to the scientific management of game populations,” says wildlife biologist Don McGowan. “The HIP program gives biologists the information they need to ensure conservation of migratory bird populations while providing quality hunting opportunities.”

The HIP program, now in its 18th year, details both the number of migratory game bird hunters and their harvests. This information helps wildlife managers monitor migratory bird populations, set hunting seasons and bag limits and ensure healthy, sustainable populations.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and state wildlife agencies collaborated to conduct harvest surveys for decades, but the methods used varied from state to state, making it difficult to compare results.

HIP provides a consistent method to gather and compare information from all states, and multi-state information is critical for managing migratory populations.

A HIP license is required to pursue doves, ducks, geese, rails and other migratory bird species. Once the survey is complete, the HIP participation permit is listed on a hunter’s license. Some HIP participants will be asked to complete a more detailed national harvest information survey about the species they hunted.

Hunting licenses, including HIP, are available at www.georgiawildlife.com/licenses-permits-passes.com, phone at 1-800-366-2661 or from more than 800 license agents (list of agents available online).

For more information, contact a Wildlife Resources Division Game Management office or call 770-918-6416.

How to Ensure Your Field is Legal

Before hunting that dove field, you need to know whether or not that field is legal. How can you make sure? Check out the online brochure “Dove Hunting and Agricultural Practices in Georgia,” available at www.georgiawildlife.com/hunting/dovebrochure.

Baiting is the illegal practice of intentionally luring doves to a field by placing grain or feed. Federal and state laws prohibit hunting migratory game birds over such areas.

“Hunters need to know the difference between ‘baiting’ and ‘recommended agricultural practices,’” says Col. Eddie Henderson, chief of the Law Enforcement Division. “Hunters need to make sure that the fields they are hunting have been prepared in a manner consistent with official agricultural recommendations relative to planting dates, planting methods and rates of application.”

The brochure explains the legalities of dove fields, provides strategies for legally attracting doves, answers common questions and contains additional information for dove hunters.

Designed by the Wildlife Resources Division in cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the University of Georgia’s Cooperative Extension Service, the brochure is available on the Wildlife Resources Divisions website at www.georgiawildlife.com/hunting/dovebrochure.

For more information, call (770) 918-6416.

2013 Dove Field Forecast Available Online

Biologists with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division recently issued the 2013 dove field forecast covering wildlife management areas and additional dove fields throughout the state.

The forecast identifies available crops and anticipates the expected conditions for opening day, noting if fields are in excellent, good, fair or poor condition. Hunters can utilize the online resource as they plan opening day activities. Forecast at www.georgiawildlife.com/DoveForecast.

For more information on dove hunting rules and regulations, hunters should review the 2013-2014 Georgia Hunting Seasons and Regulations guide, available at www.georgiawildlife.com/hunting/regulations.

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