Hunting Action Ramps Up Sept. 1 With Opening of Dove Season

August 24, 2017

The traditional opener for the fall hunting seasons arrives Sept. 1, when hunters and their companions will venture out in pursuit of fast-flying doves. (Wade Free/ODWC)

Hunting Action Ramps Up Sept. 1 With Opening of Dove Season

Optimism is running high for this year’s dove hunting season, which will arrive on its traditional opening day of Sept. 1. And the fast-flying action will continue Sept. 2-3 as Oklahoma offers Free Hunting Days for state residents.

Favorable weather and habitat during late winter and spring in most of the state should result in some healthy dove numbers this year. But unusually wet and cooler than normal conditions during much of August could mean hunters should spend extra time scouting before the opener.

Josh Richardson, migratory bird biologist with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, said he’s heard some encouraging news from the field. Observers have reported seeing sizable flocks of mourning doves. “This time of year, we start seeing birds really beginning to group up.”

Still, while there might be plenty of doves around, they could be harder to hunt if cooler weather remains in place.

Wildlife Department technicians and biologists at many Wildlife Management Areas have been working for several months planting and preparing fields to entice more doves to their public hunting areas. But unusual rainy weather during early August might curtail doves’ use of those ag fields, Richardson said.

“The wet weather causes the grain to spoil, if left in the head, or sprout if exposed and on the ground. This of course reduces the available food, and thereby the attractiveness, of a field for the birds.

“There will still be some food around, and there will be birds that use it, but it won’t be premium like it could be if we had our standard 95- to 100-degree dry days.”

If temperatures remain much below normal, Richardson suggested that hunters seek out fields with earlier maturing crops, such as milo or sunflowers. And he also noted that the birds’ patterns of movement could be different than usual, with birds flying throughout the day rather than being concentrated around daybreak and sunset.

One major change this year is that Oklahoma’s dove season, which normally runs Sept. 1 through Oct. 31, will gain additional days from Dec. 1-29. The longer season was made possible by changes in federal guidelines to allow more hunting days.

“While that’s a ways out, I have heard several optimistic comments from folks who have noticed increasing numbers of birds still around through the winter. It may not be quite the same experience as an early September hunt, but it will be a good opportunity for the sportsmen and sportswomen of Oklahoma to add a new holiday tradition.”

Another addition sure to be welcomed by state hunters is the debut of the Oklahoma Land Access Program, a new effort to lease private land for public walk-in hunting, fishing and recreational use.

For complete dove season regulations, including required licenses and permits, bag limits, shooting hours and more, consult the 2017-18 Oklahoma Hunting and Fishing Regulations Guide.

Dove season has always been a great time to expose youths or to introduce novices to the hunting tradition. The weather is usually comfortable, and the dove hunting action can be intense. That’s why it’s always a good opportunity to take advantage of Oklahoma’s Free Hunting Days, which will be Sept. 2-3 this year.

On those days, Oklahoma residents who otherwise would need a hunting license may hunt without one. Besides dove season, other game that can be hunted Sept. 2-3 are squirrels, rail, gallinule, prairie dog and coyote. All other hunting seasons are closed.

Everyone participating in Free Hunting Days is reminded that all other hunting regulations apply, including bag limits, shooting hours, shotgun plugs, hunter education requirements and other general rules that are published in the Oklahoma Hunting and Fishing Regulations Guide, which is available online at wildlifedepartment.com, in the free OK Fish & Wildlife mobile app, and in print wherever hunting and fishing licenses are sold.