Aug. 16, 2017
The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission is cranking up the opportunities for public-land hunters to enjoy the unofficial kick off to hunting season – dove hunting. In addition to fields prepared on wildlife management areas, the AGFC is offering drawn permit hunts on a leased private field in Lonoke County to increase people’s chances at enjoying a traditional dove hunt this year.
Clifton Jackson, small game program coordinator for the AGFC says the permit hunts are not replacing dove fields the AGFC has done in the past, but adding a new element to the possibilities for hunters who are interested.
“We traditionally have some decent hunts on a select few wildlife management areas on opening day of dove season, but these permit hunts will be a lot more like traditional dove openers people have shared with family and friends for generations,” Jackson said. “We’ve leased a field in the heart of agricultural land and worked with the owner to produce sunflowers for an ideal field to hunt doves over.”
Jackson says that many fields on WMAs offer good hunting, but most can’t compete with the shooting opportunities in agricultural areas.
“Doves are attracted to all the grains in agricultural fields, but our wildlife management areas are devoted to more forest management for a variety of wildlife,” Jackson said. “We know how to manage areas very well for a diversity of wildlife, but farmers excel at growing those grains doves want.”
In addition to hunting, the prepared sunflower field has proven an excellent habitat component for pollinators, such as bees, which benefit the farmer’s crop fields as well as wildlife food sources along the fringe of the agricultural land.
A permit draw on private land not only offers people a chance to hunt without a race at the beginning of the day, but it also enables staff to set the fields up for safe, sustainable hunts throughout the month of September instead of the whole season revolving around opening weekend.
“We’ll have hunts each weekend, then rest the field and prepare it for the next hunt each week,” Jackson said. “On our WMAs, the birds don’t get a lot of days off, and there’s no guarantee that enough people will be on the area to keep them moving for good hunts during the day.”
Dove hunts will be held each Saturday and Sunday during September, and permit winners will be able to hunt both days of the weekend. Anyone interested in participating in the special permit dove hunts may apply through the AGFC’s permit system at licensing.agfc.com until midnight, August 23. Select “WMA Permits” and follow the instructions provided. Each permit is valid for one hunting station, which may include one adult and one hunter under 16. The permit application includes a $5 processing fee. Applicants will be notified of their permit status by email, and permit winners may add the permit to their license for free once the draw is complete.
Jackson hopes the hunt will attract enough applicants to expand the program in the future.
“I’d love to have dove hunts like this in all regions of the state eventually, but in the meantime, people who don’t draw can still find a decent shot at a few birds at some of the wildlife management areas that traditionally hold dove fields,” Jackson said. “Some don’t have the infrastructure to irrigate and cultivate crops like sunflowers, but do produce some excellent seed-producing plants such as millet that serve double-duty for waterfowl and other wildlife. A few fields also will be top sown with wheat to establish winter food plots and stabilize soil, and these offer very good opportunities to take a few birds.”
Visit https://www.agfc.com/en/hunting/migratory-birds/dove/ to learn more about dove hunting and public opportunities to start your hunting season on the right track.