It’s always wise never to believe everything that an outdoors writer has penned.
I took a U-turn on that advice for the recent (as in, the Sept. 1) opening of Ohio’s dove-hunting season. I had just read a piece by a dove-hunting aficionado who wrote with what sounded like the material came from an authority on the subject.
The writer suggested that instead of rising at Oh-Dark-Thirty and racing to a public dove-hunting field to anchor a potentially great spot, try the evening flight.
His second piece of advice made sense, as well: Don’t go for the edge of standing grain that overlooks a bird recovery strip. Rather, find a weedy patch that has enough mowed grass in front to facilitate easier bird pick up.
So, I took the writer’s first piece of advice when I should have paid attention to the second one.
With maybe five minutes of legal shooting time remaining, my wife, Bev, and I, packed it in at the (very sadly) one and only maintained dove field at the Mosquito Creek Wildlife Area in Trumbull County. In a little more than two hours of hunting, only two birds buzzed us. Both of those doves came from behind us, too, the “us” being planted on the edge of head-high corn stalks.
Naturally, we didn’t see the birds until it was too late. Much better were that Bev and I had positioned ourselves at the terminus of a wide weed field. There, in the remains of a long-dead beaver pond, were many likewise long-since dead trees. Such naked trees are a natural roost for doves – a fact another pair of hunters were exploiting, thank you.
“It was still a lot of fun,” Bev said as she finished storing our equipment in a carry-all wagon.
Now I could go on and say the Ohio Division of Wildlife’s efforts at providing a good “dove field” for Mosquito are an irritating disappointment. And I’d be mostly correct, since times have changed – and not for the better.
When the very first few dove-hunting seasons were under the Ohio dove-hunting community’s belt, the agency had no fewer than three dove fields at Mosquito plus another one reserved for youths. Those fields also had sunflowers and buckwheat and corn, and the grass was clipped short while some of the grain was burnt. Now Mosquito has only the single field and that one being less than ideally groomed for drawing doves.
So, I’ll try and tie a couple of things together to illustrate what dove hunting means to lots of hunters, Bev and I included.
You see, dove hunting is a riot and is best done in the company of other hunters. That’s unlike deer hunting, which is beginning to grate on me a tad bit. I read a deer-hunting story headline recently that screamed how archery types should get ready for a “bow hunting boot camp.”
Ugh, hunting should not require a drill instructor.
I know this from a statistical point of view, in fact.
Following every hunting season, the Division of Wildlife conducts a random questionnaire of small-game hunters. The number and proportion of respondents the reported type of land hunted upon for each species, along with an estimated total number of participants plus the number of animals or birds killed.
When it came to mourning doves, the wildlife division found that 8.9% of respondents said they hunted doves during the 2021-2022 season. Thus, using an extrapolation model, Ohio has an estimated 21,946 mourning dove hunters.
These dove hunters killed an average of 13.9 mourning doves per participant during the 2021-22 hunting season. The total estimated kill of mourning doves in Ohio was 291,495 birds, the study reveals.
Interestingly as well, of all respondents that pursued doves, 34.8% reported hunting on wildlife areas at some point such as the dove field at Mosquito.
Those figures are not necessarily similar to what the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has found, though. The Service’s latest figures are for the 2020-2021 season. It says Ohio has 10,500 active dove hunters who shot 132,200 birds with an average of 12.6 birds annually taken by each participant.
Regardless, we’ll see in a moment just how big dove hunting is and how important the sport is economically.
Texas far and away is the nation’s leading dove-hunting state. Figures suggest that Texas has between 216,000 and 300,000 dove hunters who kill between five million and seven million birds with an average per-person take of 17.3 birds. In fact, Texas hunters kill 30% of all doves taken nationwide.
Yes, yes, Texas has a lot of doves. About 20 million mourning doves. Plus, another 10 million white-winged doves, and around three to four million Eurasian collared doves.
Thing is, Texas capitalizes on dove hunting. It’s estimated – and reported recently in the Dallas Morning News – dove hunting in the Lone Star State is worth $450 million annually.
Now no one is going to ever say that Ohio will overtake Georgia or Alabama – much less Texas – in the number of either doves killed or the number of hunters pursuing them.
What I am saying is the Ohio Division of Wildlife should up the ante for its dove hunters. It can do a much better job of cultivating more fields as well as improve the manipulation of its existing dove fields. And not just those too-few areas that offer access only via a lottery draw, either.
There is absolutely no other type of hunting that’s more family friendly, more fun, and requires less in the way of equipment than is dove hunting. Not turkey hunting. Not waterfowl hunting.
And most of all, not deer hunting.
Bluntly, it’s time for the Ohio Division of Wildlife to put the “Big” back into small-game hunting.
And you have this outdoors writer’s word on that one, too.