Keys to hunting mourning doves

By Al Smith - Guest Columnist

While many people equate the mourning dove as a visitor to their bird feeders, backyards and sitting on various wires, it actually is the most popular, abundant and widespread game bird in North America.

This fast flier has populated both agricultural and urban areas. It is one of the most common birds in Ohio.

The hunting season for these easily-recognized birds began last Thursday. Many doves people see during the fall hunting season are migrating through the state. There are at least 4 million mourning doves in Ohio during the fall, according to biologists.

A tasty bird, the dove proves difficult to shoot. The slow-moving waddling bird one may see along the ground can fly at high rates of speed (It flies at an average speed of 45 mph) One dove hunter told me a few years ago, he was getting pretty good at shooting them - “Maybe one per box of shells.” A box holds 20 shells.

Some people claim, the average hunter uses anywhere from 5-10 shells to bag a dove. That’s a lot of ammo, especially if you bag a daily limit of 15. Hitting a dove is easier said than done. But some old-timers over the years have offered good, solid advice for shooters to be more productive.

They claim hunters should know their range and can never shoot too far in front of a dove.

Range is a key factor when shooting any game. Remember patience is a virtue. It pays off for bow hunters. They shoot game at a close distance. Dove hunters should do the same. Sometimes what they think is a close shot winds up being 50 yards or more. Remember most shotguns have a reliable range of only 30-35 yards depending upon which choke you use.

A lot of misses on doves also come from shooting behind them since hunters often do not accurately judge their speed. Try shooting too far in front of them and then adjust until you become more accurate

The dove season runs through Nov. 6. Hunting hours are from sunrise to sunset except for areas posted otherwise. The possession limit is 45 after the second day.

Other hunting seasons began last Thursday including squirrel, rail, snipe and gallinule seasons. There is one notable change which is a modification to the opening date of the early waterfowl seasons. The early Canada goose and teal seasons began Saturday. Canada geese may be hunted from sunrise to sunset Sept. 3-11 with a daily bag limit of five birds. Teal may be hunted from sunrise to sunset Sept. 3-18 with a daily bag limit of six birds. Possession limits after the second day for both teal and Canada geese are three times the daily bag limits.

No matter what game you are hunting this season, you must have landowner permission to do so on private property. A total of 95 percent of Ohio’s land is in private ownership.

Be courteous and respectful of landowners when seeking permission to hunt on their property and remember to act in a way that will get you permission in the years to come. Contact the Division of Wildlife at 800-WILDLIFE to order “Hunting With Permission” forms or print a copy at

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Overbagging or double and triple tripping can be costly if you are caught.

Two dozen people from Wisconsin and one Ohioan discovered that recently when they were ordered to pay $1,472 in fines and $1,856 in court costs after being found guilty and convicted in Ottawa County Municipal Court for exceeding the walleye limit while fishing on Lake Erie.

The Ohio Division of Wildlife (DOW) had received numerous complaints about this group overbagging. Upon investigation DOW personnel found the group had cut the walleye into chunks in an attempt to disguise how many fish they had kept. Keeping cut fillets in Ohio is illegal since Ohio law states that fillets must be kept whole until anglers reach their permanent residence, or until the fish are prepared for immediate consumption.

John Windau, a communications specialist with the DOW, explained you do not have to keep skin on your fillets.

“Fish can be identified by the fillet using a variety of characteristics, as long as they are whole. To clarify, it isn’t just walleye. The rule applies to all fish and at all bodies of water in Ohio where a license is required,” he said.

All of the seized walleye were forfeited to the ODNR Division of Wildlife and were donated to people in northwest Ohio through several outlets, including the Erie County Care Facility, the Ohio Veterans Home in Sandusky County and the Luther Home of Mercy in Ottawa County.

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A hands-on instruction on the basics of power boating will be held on Saturday (Sept. 10) from 8 a.m.-3 East Harbor State Park, located at 1169 N. Buck Road in Lakeside-Marblehead. Participants must be 18 years of age and have a valid driver’s license to complete the land-based trailer portion of the course. The minimum age of participants is 12. Students ages 12-17 must be accompanied by an adult. All participants must have successfully completed a NASBLA-approved boater education course. For more information or to register, call 419-621-1302.

By Al Smith

Guest Columnist

Al Smith is a freelance outdoor writer. He may be contacted at or and you can follow him on Twitter @alsmithFL

Al Smith is a freelance outdoor writer. He may be contacted at or and you can follow him on Twitter @alsmithFL

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