The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Columns

September 8, 2013

Dove hunting in Minnesota means Heat, humidity and humility

Mourning doves are North America's most plentiful, popular game birds

Hunting excursions usually are associated with cool, crisp mornings.

But the other evening, as I tucked myself into the edge of a tall cornfield, even after a short walk, a rivulet of sweat already trickled between my shoulder blades.

September in Minnesota can be that way sometimes, of course — just an extension of summer.

But summer heat notwithstanding, several hunting seasons, among them one for lumbering giant Canada geese and at the other end of the avian spectrum, one for fleet-winged mourning doves, began last weekend.

So on this, the 10th autumn since the latter species once again was declared a game bird in Minnesota, I hoped to bag a few.

There undoubtedly are a few reading this who will take issue with the mourning dove’s elevation to game bird status and the idea of hunting them.

Even though it was classified as a game bird in most states, since 1946 the mourning dove was a protected species in Minnesota.

So maybe it’s understandable how some are inclined to make an emotional connection with the birds seen at bird feeders or cooing from roof ridgesin the evening.

From a biological point of view, however, there is no reason the prolific, short-lived bird should not be hunted.

According to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2012 population estimates, mourning doves are North America’s most plentiful game birds with an estimated continental population of 308 million.

They also happen to be the most popular game bird with anywhere from 20 million to 70 million harvested annually by hunters.

In many states, the opening day of the dove hunting season is elevated to holiday status, a time for family and friends to gather.

In Minnesota, the dove hunting tradition has been slow to gain momentum since that first modern day season was held in 2004.

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