Hunting seasons start soon. Charlie Farmer

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Aug. 16, 2002

Charlie Farmer, Springfield News Leader Outdoors columnist

Hunting seasons start soon

Some of the most enjoyable hunting of the year turns up early in September.

The first is Mourning doves. For the shotgunner, there is no better action as doves pour into crop fields early in the morning and again late in the afternoon.

The majority of dove fields are private farms and ranches. Hunters generally ask landowners for permission in August during a convenient time of day for farmers.

The Missouri Department of Conservation and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers also oversee public lands where doves are plentiful. Other good hunting can be enjoyed around MDC wetlands where field crops have been cultivated. Giant, ripe sunflower seeds on the ground are particularly attractive to doves.

Doves flying with the wind can be tricky to knock down. However, it seems that in every group there is one hotshot who never or nearly never misses the gray rockets.

A comfortable, well-fitted shotgun has a major part in the success. And the shooter’s supreme confidence says it all. Some of the best I know carry over/under, 20-gauge guns rather than heavier 12-gauge models.

Birds work the fields from sunup to noon on good days. After that they head for shade trees in the afternoon. Doves will often show up around 4 p.m., when they cruise the fields again or take to ponds.

Hunters with trained retrieving dogs often have an edge on those who don’t. While some dove fields are flat as pancakes, others may still have standing crops or weeds. Finding downed birds in such cover can be difficult without a dog. When hunting over ponds, doves commonly wind up in water.

Water dogs like labs make the task fun. Doves rank best for eating among a majority of hunters. Breast meat rivals the tenderest of store-bought chicken and is perfect for grilling. Wrap in thick sliced bacon with toothpicks and dab sparingly with olive oil.

Dove season opens Sept. 1. Daily limit: 12. Closes Nov. 9.

For finding dove fields, MDC’s “Missouri’s Conservation Atlas — A Guide to Exploring Your Conservation Lands” is a good bet. It is available at MDC offices and Conservation Nature Centers throughout the state.

The special season for teal begins Sept. 14 and ends Sept. 22. Blue-winged teal are among the first ducks to migrate each fall and one of the last in the spring. Green-winged teal also make an appearance, but not in the numbers of Blue-wings.

The small, compact flocks commonly fly low over the marshes and often take hunters by surprise. The nine-day special season does attract plenty of hunters for a lot of reasons. The ducks are sporty. Water dogs get an early break in the waterfowl season from their trainers. And the diminutive Blue wing is one of the best eating of ducks.

Preparing the breast meat of teal is very close to the texture of doves. Cook over the grill the same way with thick-sliced bacon and smattering of olive oil.

MDC wetlands and popular duck spots like Schell-Osage and Four Rivers are generally good. If lakes like Stockton, Truman and Bull Shoals have ample water during special season, the waterfowling could be good.

MDC cautions hunters who plan to hunt doves, snipe, rail, woodcock, ducks, geese or other migratory birds to buy a Missouri Migratory Bird Hunting Permit ($6). Some hunters forget this permit, which replaced the old Migratory Bird Hunting Information Program card and state duck stamp.
 
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