Managing for Doves

 In Game Birds

If you haven’t already begun preparing for dove season don’t worry, with a little mid-summer work you’ll be ready on opening day. Dove management on Westervelt leases can sometimes be tough because they lack large open fields, but with a little creativity a successful dove hunt can be had. Dove field size recommendation varies from 5-20 acres. A small field with a great location will enable you to have more success than a larger field in a poor location. Features of a great location include: powerlines, pipelines, roads that are day-lighted, and clearcuts. Regardless of field size, a poor location is one that doesn’t contain any perching structure for doves.

If a powerline or pipeline runs on your lease, you are on your way to creating a successful dove management area. Include these features in your dove field, as the birds naturally perch on the line. With a timber company lease, you’ll also have plenty of pines on the property where doves will loaf during the day.

Doves eat seeds, so planting a field that will provide forage during the hunting season is the backbone of your management plan. Before you plant any seeds, check your state’s guidelines for harvest information and the definition of what is legal for a dove field, then obtain soil samples and have them analyzed to give you the correct amount of fertilizer to use. This will save you money, protect your seed investment, and increase plant vigor and seed production.

Browntop millet, buckwheat, dove proso millet, sunflowers, corn, and grain sorghum are all seeds that doves prefer. Browntop has the shortest maturation time of approximately 60 days, buckwheat matures in 70 days, and dove proso millet matures in 90 days. If you have not already starting preparing a dove field, then millet and buckwheat will be your best bet to have mature seed available by dove season. Sunflowers take 100 days to mature; corn and grain sorghum mature in about 120-145 days. 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 bush-hogging or silage chopping corn will be the most effective for your Westervelt lease. Keep some strips of freshly disked open ground for doves to dust in, and when your state permits the practice of top sowing wheat you can begin to do so. Keeping winter food plots that were planted in wheat and were allowed to mature should be sprayed to keep weeds out of them and bush-hogging a couple of weeks before the season to allow the seeds to contact bare ground will also help attract birds in the area.

Managing native plants for doves is also a great technique for increasing the number of doves on your lease. 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 bush-hogging. Clearcuts will provide many of these species and sometimes need no management, only hunting!

Incorporate these recommendations into your dove management area, and you’ll also create a social atmosphere – where the talk ranges from college football to cooler weather to, of course, deer season – that is associated with dove hunting.

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