For Kansas bird hunters eagerly awaiting Sept. 1's opening of dove season, the last few days of August pass by like cold syrup even though outside temperatures are in the 90s.
The mourning dove is the most abundant game bird in North America, and it's one of the most popular with hunters. In Kansas, an average of 36,000 hunters will harvest 800,000 doves each year. And Sept. 1 marks the first hunting season of the year, so anticipation is high.
The first segment of dove season will run through Oct. 14. The second segment is Nov. 1-16.
Since 2003, biologists have been trapping and banding doves to learn more about hunting's impact on dove populations. The bands are small, so hunters will need to check their birds carefully.
Hunters who take banded birds are asked to call 1-800 327-2263 to provide necessary information. Hunters can keep the bands.
Also, some hunters may be asked to provide a wing from each dove they harvest to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This is a pilot project to discover if a nationwide wing survey is feasible.
Biologists will use submitted wings to identify the ratio of immature to adult birds in the harvest, which will help them estimate reproductive output.
Mourning doves are prolific nesters and Kansas is generally one of the top nesting states, according to call-count surveys done in May and June. Doves build flimsy nests in trees or on the ground, so severe weather can impact nest success.
However, they are persistent and by late summer, Kansas dove numbers are usually high. Scouting trips may expose large numbers of birds gathering near watering holes, feed fields or roosts.
Shotgun shell manufacturers love dove season because the average dove hunter may fire seven shots for each dove harvested. With a daily bag limit of 15 birds, that's a lot of shells.
Doves are small, fast flying and unpredictable. Throw in some normal Kansas wind, and you really test your shooting ability - and patience.
While any shotgun shooting practice will help, a few trips to the local sporting clays course or five-stand range will help. Sporting clays and five-stand layouts provide shooters with a variety of flying targets that can simulate dove hunting.
Good locations for early-season dove hunts include worked wheat and corn fields, cut sunflower fields and water holes.