From coast to coast, hunters in 40 states have been joined together recently for one purpose—to hunt doves. Dove seasons have opened from Virginia to California, and hunters have gone afield to hunt fast flying mourning doves.
For some hunters, this is the first hunt of the season and signals the onset of fall. For other hunters, this is the first hunt of a lifetime. Dove hunting is the perfect opportunity to introduce kids to hunting because supervising adults can be close to young hunters, all hunters can talk and communicate, and working in partnership also often helps in the recovery of downed doves. Plus, dove season opening days are also generally warm and hunters can be comfortable. For many families, dove hunting becomes a family affair.
There are many reasons to hunt doves. A recent population estimate places the U.S. population of mourning doves at approximately 350 million birds. Hunters take only an estimated 20 million doves per season, and most dove hunting seasons are open from Labor Day—or September 1—until late November or into December. On average, sportsmen hunt doves about 4 to 5 days per season before beginning hunts for other species.
In addition to hunting licenses and possible state required permits, hunters are required to complete a federal Harvest Information Program (HIP). The HIP report helps determine the number of hunters who hunt doves and waterfowl species. This program and other studies have shown that dove hunters are willing to travel and spend many dollars in their pursuit of doves. Basically, dove hunting has a tremendous positive effect on conservation funding and local economies.
For example, a survey of Illinois hunters by the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign determined that the average Illinois dove hunter was 37 years old. He or she had hunted doves for 17 years, traveled 31 miles (round trip) per day afield to hunt these migratory birds, and spent $138 (total $10.2 million) on their sport during the season. The survey also determined that 26% of the hunters usually used a dog and 62% relied on reloaded shotgun shells.
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