The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Outdoors

September 1, 2012

Cross: Hunting pressure for doves usually low

— The early Canada goose and the mourning dove hunting seasons opened yesterday in Minnesota.

The only similarity between hunting for them is that they’re both birds. Otherwise, any serious pursuit of them is worlds apart.

Hunting for big Canada geese is labor intensive, equipment intensive and competitive as hunters vie for access to coveted feeding areas.

A hunt for diminutive doves can be little more than a leisurely stroll to a fenceline carrying minimal equipment and, at least in Minnesota where hunting them hasn’t really caught on, not very much competition from other hunters.

Competition, that is, from other dove hunters.

When I arrived at the farm west of Nicollet where I had permission to hunt the birds on Saturday, I looked passed the silos and milking parlor to the edge of alfalfa and a cornfield that earlier had been cut for silage.

There, a pickup-trailer rig was parked as several hunters were putting the finishing touches on their spread of goose decoys.

Assuming that they also had permission to hunt the farm, and reasoning that they might not appreciate someone banging away at doves in the same neighborhood, I pondered my options.

The only other dove hunting spot I had obtained permission to hunt was 40 miles distant, in western Blue Earth County.

And now, with sunrise just minutes away, the best gunning period would have long since ended by the time I got there.

Disappointed, I checked out a nearby Wildlife Management Area a half mile away.

Once upon a time, for a while after a dove season was approved by the legislature in 2004, Department of Natural Resources area wildlife managers oversaw tracts on some WMAs to attract doves.

But now, into a ninth year since doves once again were designated as gamebirds, that practice has been largely abandoned.

The thick summer cover of switch grass that covered the WMA certainly might have been attractive to pheasants and the like, but doves prefer open areas in which to feed and rest.

A quick glassing revealed a sky as empty as the parking lot.

I cruised the backroads a bit, contemplating my options. The flocks of doves loafing on the utility lines along my route suggested that it could have been a pretty good hunt back at the farm.

With the sun climbing higher, it became clear a morning hunt wasn’t in the cards so I headed for home.

First, I had to stop at the local grocery store.

Earlier, after walking the dog, donning my camo and before heading out the door on my hunt, I briefly returned to the bedroom to retrieve an item I had forgotten.

I turned on the light.

There on my pillow was a card, a gift. “Happy anniversary,” my wife reminded me.

Ooops.

Now, in my defense, I hadn’t entirely forgotten about the big day. Just a couple days ago, it occurred to me that our anniversary was approaching, that I ought to do something appropriate to commemorate the event.

Unfortunately, when Saturday morning rolled around ... well, after 39 years, no excuses here. I blew it.

Still clad in camo, I soon was stalking the anniversary section of the card display, hunting for the perfect card to make amends for my forgetfulness.

Let me tell you, hunting for doves would have been a lot easier.

John Cross is a Free Press staff writer. Contact him at 344-6376 or be e-mail at jcross@mankatofreepress.com.

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