With an estimated population of 275 million in North America, the mourning dove is one of the most-abundant and recognizable birds in the land. In the South, Labor Day weekend brings hunters from all walks of life into fields for the opening day of the dove season.
While some hunters target deer and turkey and others painfully anticipate the arrival of the first wave of blue-winged teal, every shotgun-carrying Carolinian goes dove hunting, even if just on the opening weekend. Across the Carolinas, the opening day of dove season brings more than 60,000 hunters out of hiding — more than any other single hunting day.
For diehard dove hunters, the opening day festivities are scheduled well advance with a local dove club membership, where the fields are prepared and ready for the opening day blitz. For many others, a good shoot is just a short drive away from home on both public and private lands.
Learn how to find a good field and where the best places to set up are to reach a quick 15-bird limit during the first season.
Even though doves are considered migratory birds, dove migration is considered less dramatic than the big move south by waterfowl, according to Michael Hook, the small-game project leader for the S.C. Department of Natural Resources.
“Doves tend to get a lot of focus in our state and in our department,” Hook said. “We started banding doves in 2003 in cooperation with the US Fish and Wildlife Service. The band returns are giving us more information than we would otherwise know — like harvest rates, population estimates and migration data.”
Between 30,000 to 50,000 doves are banded annually across the country, with approximately 3,600