Create Your Own Dove Field
It is the middle of summer and now is the time to start preparing for dove season if you have not already started. Other than the heat, this is a time of year because it has you thinking about everything that is going to take place in the fall, such as college football season, relief from the heat and opening day of dove season! Dove management on Westervelt leases can be tough sometimes because of the lack of large open fields but with a little creativity a successful dove hunt can be achieved. Dove field size recommendations vary from 5-20 acres. A small field in a good location will be more successful than a larger field in a poor location. Great locations include powerlines, pipelines, wide roadsides, and clearcuts. Poor locations are small fields with limited structure around for doves to perch on.
If your club has a powerline or pipeline you are in business! You can create a nice size dove field and the powerline above will be an added bonus as doves will perch on the line. Also, leasing land from a timber company can usually guarantee that you will have plenty of pines on the property for doves to loaf in during the day. Soil samples should always be obtained before planting to amend the soil properly. This will save you money, protect your seed investment, and increase plant vigor and seed production.
Species such as browntop millet, dove proso millet, sunflowers, corn, and grain sorghum are all highly attractive to doves. Browntop has the shortest maturation time of approximately 60 days, with dove proso maturing in 90 days. If you have not already starting preparing for doves then millet and buckwheat will be your best bet to have mature seed available by the beginning of dove season. Sunflowers take about 110 days to mature, whereas corn (145 days) and grain sorghum (120 days) take longer to mature. Planting different varieties of seeds with varying maturation lengths will increase your ability to hold doves for longer periods. Single species plantings will allow for easier management of plants that have reached maturity. Manipulating these plantings by mowing or silage chopping corn will be the most effective for scattering seed and creating much needed bare ground for doves to access seed (doves are weak scratchers).
It is also beneficial to disk strips through and around dove fields to provide open ground for doves to dust in as well. These disked strips can later be planted in wheat to further attract doves (be sure to check planting regulations through the state extension service prior to planting wheat to dove hunt over). Another good practice is to keep winter food plots that were planted in wheat or other cereal grains weed free after they mature and then bushhogging strips a couple of weeks before the season to allow the seeds to contact bare ground.
Managing native plants is also a great technique for increasing the number of doves on your lease. Many native plants such as wooly croton, ragweed, signal grass, bristle grass, pokeberry and spiny pigweed are all native plants that doves prefer. Identify areas with these preferred species first then allow them to reach maturity before bushhogging if you are able to. Clearcuts will provide you with many of these species and often don’t need manipulating. All you need to do is hunt when the birds show up!
Try some of these recommendations and enjoy the social atmosphere and fellowship associated with dove hunting! Also, be sure to check your state’s guidelines for hunting and harvest information to ensure regulations are followed properly for your dove field.