Jim Bennett

Sept. 1 has come and gone and with it the beginning of Wisconsin’s 2020 fall hunting season starting with dove and the annual early goose and teal seasons. For most of the nation south of the Mason/Dixon Line the opening of dove season is a major event, akin to deer season up here in the north. Opening day of dove hunting in many states is a major event that brings families and friends together to celebrate traditions, much like pheasant hunting in South Dakota or fishing openers. Those top 10 dove hunting states in order are  Oklahoma, Texas, South Dakota, Nevada, Kansas, Alabama, Missouri, Georgia, Nebraska and  Arizona.

Wisconsin isn’t a state with that great dove hunting heritage. In fact hunters had to work to get a season approved against a reluctant opposition. Prior to 2001 dove hunting was a mere after thought in Wisconsin with many state residents arguing that the mourning dove was the Badger States emblem as the bird of peace. They saw the dove as a bird of peace but in all images it was the white dove, not the tawny brown game bird that is the legitimate dove of peace.

Firm lines were drawn in the sand with those looking at the common mourning dove, backed by radical groups like PETA, as the dove of peace. Those on the other side simply wanted a dove season like 42 other states in the nation. Wisconsin voters made their voices heard and legislators passed laws creating a season in the Badger State. But opponents pushed the fight onward to the Wisconsin Supreme Court but  the court upheld the states’ rights. The grass root effort was successful. Annually the DNR expects about 24,000 hunters will harvest over 200,000 dove out of an estimated 5 million doves that inhabit our state.

Growing up in Wisconsin I always wondered why there was no dove season when it was so very popular around most of the country. It is now evident that many others felt the same way. Dove would often flush when hunting pheasants. I was so very impressed by their flying ability and that cool wing noise they made when they took off and landed by their flight featherss. Like so many other healthy foods that don’t come from a store wrapped in plastic or full of growth hormones and antibiotics dove are fantastic eating. Dove poppers wrapped in bacon and grilled are beyond good tasting.

 Topping out at nearly 60 mph a doves speed rockets them past  other upland birds and places them right in the midst of the fastest ducks.  Beyond being fast they can turn on a dime and make fast dives, turns and spins without any warning. Dove hunting is popular because they open first in nice weather. People can hunt them in a variety of ways from simple jump shooting, set up in grain fields with or without decoys or just by walking edges of farm fields and prairie habitat with pines for roosting.

Another reason they are so popular is because they have a limit of 15 daily. That’s more than three times the amount allowed as a daily bag limit for most other game birds. Farmers like that because huge flocks can damage grain fields. They fly so fast and erratic most hunters need 7 shots to down a dove! The sport is fun because you don’t have to be quiet or sit still. Dove hunting is great for training a young dog to retrieve with such a large bag limit. What I know is that many people have love affairs with doves in the wing shooting game. I also know that all the dove I harvest will end up wrapped in bacon and grilled to perfection with a honey glaze if I can hit them!

 Jim Bennett is an outdoorsman who lives and worked in the St. Croix River Valley. He can be reached at jamesbennett24@gmail.com.

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