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Aug. 22, 2018

Jim Harris

LITTLE ROCK – Dove hunters will have several opportunities for public hunting starting Saturday, Sept. 1, the opening day of the season – at least if weather cooperates between now and then.

The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission prepares some fields each year on its wildlife management areas, and this year has 17 fields planned for hunters’ access. The fields are available on a first-come, first-served basis throughout dove season, though some are only made available for hunting certain days of the week. They range from 80 acres with top-sown wheat in Rick Evans Grandview Prairie WMA in southwest Arkansas to 5- and 40-acre fields of millet and sunflowers at Shirey Bay Rainey Brake WMA in the northeast part of the state; from five fields in Fort Chaffee WMA in west-central Arkansas to 32 acres at the Wrape Plantation within George H. Dunklin Bayou Meto WMA in the southeast; and more points (WMAs) in between. Check the complete list below, or visit www.agfc.com/en/hunting/migratory-birds/dove/ for a list of fields and maps as well as more information on public dove hunting.

Also, the AGFC for the second consecutive year is offering a permit hunt on 30 private acres in Lonoke County for 20 permit winners each of the four September weekends. The permit application process closes Wednesday, Aug. 22, at midnight, and winners will be contacted by this weekend.

The WMA acreage devoted to dove fields is relatively small because most hunters only pursue doves the first few days of the season. However, after opening weekend of dove season, many wildlife species feed in the fields, particularly those that were top-sown with winter wheat.

The biggest problem for the fields, though, is the onslaught over mid-summer rains that slam the state in August. Heavy rainfall the previous two seasons has hampered efforts to cut top-sown wheat in the fields at Rick Evans Grandview Prairie WMA, about 16 miles northwest of Hope. This year, extensive rainfall throughout the western half of the state has created some issues for area managers accessing planned fields there. Kevin Lynch, district supervisor in the AGFC's Fort Smith office, said many of the fields he had planned have seen as much as 10 inches of rain in the last week.

"We're going to try to get out there and make it happen, but it's going to be tough," Lynch said. "Some of our fields even have standing water still in them, and we can't even get a tractor out to disk them up. Even if we can, the wheat will sprout too quickly for many doves to find it.”

But after two years of weather issues that spoiled preparing for dove hunting, the plans in southwest Arkansas are looking up this August, according to Eley Talley, a biologist in that region.

“We’re getting our wheat fields planted this week, and our bird numbers are average or maybe a little above average now at Rick Evans Grandview Prairie and Hope Upland,” Talley said. “We’re cautiously optimistic.”
Some 80 acres of top-sown wheat are being planted at both locations. “That will be a pretty good draw for the birds,” Talley said. “The past two years, we just had some bad luck with bad weather fronts before the season, or having birds and they’d be moving off right before the season. That’s the reason for my cautious optimism. We’re still a few days away from the season. There’s still time for a lot to change, but right now it looks to be in pretty good shape.”

AGFC biologist David Luker in Monticello has been keeping tabs on the dove field work at the Wrape Plantation at George H. Dunklin Bayou Meto WMA, where 32 huntable acres are spread out either along the roadway there or just off with foot-trail access. They’ve had rain, but it hasn’t stopped some disk work already. “Our intention is to have them all done by the end of the week. If we have no more rain, we should have them all disked and top-sown; if not this week, then definitely by the first of next week we’ll have it done,” he said. “Some area already disked up and we’re just waiting to top-sew wheat.”

Luker says he hasn’t seen a lot of doves in the area, outside of a few on power lines and on roads. “I don’t think they’ve gotten here just yet. Maybe by dove season they will. Last year, we had a lot of doves just before the season and then a weather front moved them out and not many were here opening day. So maybe it will be different this year. It can change real quick.”

Dove hunting opens 30 minutes before sunrise Sept 1, running until sunset. Dove season is Sept. 1 through Oct. 28, and resumes again Dec. 8-Jan. 15 Daily bag limit for mourning and white-wing dove is 15, with a possession limit of 45. There is no daily bag limit or possession limit or Eurasian-collared dove. Other dove hunting regulations can be found online at www.agfc.com/en/hunting/migratory-birds/dove/. A 2018-19 hunting license is required and may be purchased on the AGFC website as well.

Clifton Jackson, AGFC small game coordinator, said, “We’ve enjoyed a solid population of doves in state for several years now and we expect the trend to continue this season.”

Lynch suggests hunters throughout the state call ahead to the area manager before planning their hunt on public fields to verify current conditions. 
 

WMAs With Public Dove Fields 

Northeast Arkansas: 

  • Big Lake WMA; area manager: 877-972-5438 (toll free), 20 acres; 
  • Dave Donaldson Black River WMA; area manager: 877-972-5438 (toll free), 15 acres; 
  • Shirey Bay Rainey Brake WMA, 501-529-3363, 5- and 40-acre plots; 
  • St. Francis Sunken Lands WMA, 870-375-3066, 25-acre field and additional 21 acres on Hatchie Coon Island.

Central Arkansas: 

  • Camp Robinson SUA, area manager: 877-967-7577 (toll free), 10 acres; 
  • Ed Gordon Point Remove WMA, 479-967-7577 or 877-967-7577 (toll free), 50 acres (includes 3 fields on Weir Road and 2 fields on North Side Road); 
  • Nimrod Lloyd Millwood WMA, TF 877-525-8606, 100 acres south of Plainview, north of Sunlight Bay.

West Central Arkansas: 

  • Dardanelle WMA, area manager; 479-478-1043 or 877-478-1043 (toll free), 8 acres on Okane Island; 
  • Fort Chaffee WMA, 479-478-1043 or 877-478-1043 (toll free), 5 fields in compartments 3, 4, 6J and 8B; 
  • Frog Bayou WMA, 877-478-1043 (toll free), 10 acres off Sharp Chapel Road; 
  • Galla Creek WMA, 479-967-7577 or 877-367-7577 (toll free), 50 acres on west sandbar; 
  • J.P. Mikles Blue Mountain SUA, 479-478-1043 or 877-478-1043 (toll free), 5 acres; 
  • Ozark Lake WMA, 479-478-1043 or 877-478-1043 (toll free), 17 acres south of Vine Prairie; 
  • Petit Jean River WMA, 479-478-1043 or 877-478-1043 (toll free), 60 acres in the Black Lands and Slaty Crossing.

Southeast Arkansas: 

  • George H. Dunklin Jr. Bayou Meto WMA, area manager: 870-367-3553 or 877-777-5580 (toll free), 32 acres at Wrape Plantation. 

Southwest Arkansas: 

  • Hope Upland WMA, area manager: 870-777-5580 or 877-777-5580 (toll free), 80 acres; 
  • Rick Evans Grandview Prairie WMA, 870-777-5580 or 877-777-5580 (toll free), 80 acres. 
    This story was updated Aug. 24 to include the Dave Donaldson Black River WMA dove field listing.