JEFFERSON CITY-North America’s most prolific game bird also is one of the most challenging to hunt. The Missouri Department of Conservation works to maximize this opportunity by providing food that feeds doves and gives hunters hundreds of places to hunt them.
Each year, the Conservation Department plants more than 700 fields with sunflowers, wheat, and other crops favored by doves. These fields are planted on 93 conservation areas (CAs) scattered across the state. In years when growing conditions are good, these fields can provide spectacular hunting action. Finding state-managed dove fields is as easy as visiting mdc.mo.gov/node/8905. Not all dove fields are created equal, however. To help hunters identify the best prospects in their areas, the Conservation Department provides the following overview of 2014 dove-field conditions.
- Talbot CA has very good sunflowers on 60 percent of fields.
- Capps Creek CA has good sunflowers and adequate bare ground on both fields.
- Fort Crowder CA has very good sunflowers over its 20-acre dove field. Hunting will be for youth only from first shooting light to noon on September 1. After that, it will be open to the public.
- Sloan CA has very good sunflowers and wheat.
- Stockton Lake has good dove crops on fields on the Big Sac Arm.
- Bois D’Arc CA’s many sunflower and wheat fields all look good. Hunters must fill out daily hunter cards and check in at headquarters.
- Ten Mile Pond CA has excellent sunflowers.
- Otter Slough CA’s sunflowers are poor, due to late planting and flooding.
- Maintz CA has excellent sunflowers.
- Duck Creek CA has poor sunflowers, due to flooding and deer damage.
- Crowleys Ridge CA has good sunflowers.
- All of the Central Region’s dove fields are fair to good, with a few that could be excellent by opening day.
- Ozark Region dove fields look good, thanks to early planting and above-average rainfall.
- Dove fields in the Northeast Region are in good condition. The exceptions are Ted Shank CA, where the sunflower fields were lost to flooding and Hunnewell CA, where fields were planted late.
- Bunch Hollow and Grand Pass CAs have very good sunflower crops.
- Mussel Fork CA has above-average sunflowers, which were planted early enough to mature by Sept. 1.
- Fountain Grove CA has good stands of sunflowers, but they were planted a little late, and they have a fair amount of ragweed growing in them.
- Crooked River CA’s sunflowers were planted early enough but have experienced poor growth due to excessive rain.
- Wayne Helton CA has good sunflower fields and one fair one, totaling around 25 acres.
- Lake Paho CA has four good sunflower fields totaling around 25 acres.
- Emmett and Leah Seat CA has one good sunflower field.
- Nodaway Valley, Bilby Ranch, and Bob Brown CAs have both wheat and sunflower fields that are in good condition but might be a little late maturing.
- Aspinwall CA’s sunflower fields look great.
- Wolf Creek Bend and Rush Bottoms CAs both suffered complete loss of dove fields to flooding.
- Pony Express Lake, Happy Holler Lake, King Lake, and Bonanza CAs all look good this year.
- Schifferdecker CA has fair to good conditions on its one 4-acre sunflower field.
- Platte Falls and Guy B. Park CAs have good sunflowers.
- Four Rivers and Douglas Branch CAs have excellent sunflowers.
- Schell-Osage CA has fair to good sunflowers.
- Harmony Mission Lake CA has fair to good sunflowers.
- James A. Reed Memorial Wildlife Area has fair to good sunflower and wheat fields.
- The Bethlehem tract at Truman Lake has 14 sunflower fields, mostly in good condition.
- The Grand River, Brownington, and Deepwater tracts at Truman Lake have four sunflower and wheat fields totaling 40 acres. Three are in good condition, while the fourth, at Grand River, is weedy.
- Ralph and Martha Perry and J.N. Kearn CAs have the best sunflowers in five years for these areas.
- Hazel Hill Lake CA has fair to good sunflower production.
- Settle’s Ford CA has 40 acres of sunflowers, all of which are in good condition. One field is designated for youth hunters only. This area also has 15 acres of millet that might be ready to hunt by Sept. 1.
- August A. Busch CA has fair to poor sunflower fields. Wheat fields are fair to poor, and millet fields are good to fair.
- Weldon Spring CA has good conditions in its sunflowers fields.
- Pacific Palisades CA has fair wheat and millet fields.
- Columbia Bottom CA’s sunflowers look very good. Wheat is a bit weedy but overall fields are in good shape.
- William R. Logan, Marais Temps Clair, and William and Erma Parke White CAs all have good sunflower and wheat fields.
Even with these tips, pre-season scouting is important to dove-hunting success. It makes sense to call CA managers and visit the fields you think you might want to hunt to identify the best prospects. Dove-field maps available online aid hunters in locating fields, which can be a challenge if done in the dark on opening morning.
The following CAs manage dove hunting through drawings to prevent over-crowding.
James A. Reed Memorial Wildlife Area is closed to dove hunting on Sept. 1. The area will have dove hunting by managed hunt with daily field assignment from Sept. 2 through 7. Hunting is open with a daily hunt card after that. Shooting hours are from 1 p.m. to sunset for the entire season. Call 816-622-0900 for more information.
Columbia Bottom CA assigns dove hunting opportunities for the first week of the season by an annual drawing. Applications were accepted through July 31. Statewide regulations apply starting Sept. 8. A daily hunting card and nontoxic shot are required. Call 314-877-6014 for more information.
Eagle Bluffs CA holds drawings at 5:45 and 11 a.m. daily to assign morning and afternoon hunting opportunities for up to the first week of dove season. After that it is open hunting. Call 573-445-3882 for more information. Hunting on this area is with nontoxic shot only.
Ten Mile Pond CA holds daily drawings at 4:45 a.m. Sept. 1 and 2, then goes to open hunting. Nontoxic shot is required. Call 573-649-9491 for more information.
Otter Slough CA will hold drawings at 4:30 a.m. Nontoxic shot is required. Call 573-290-5730 for more information.
Marais Temps Clair CA will hold drawings at 5 a.m. and refill hunting spots vacated throughout the day for up to the first week of dove season. After that it is open to statewide regulations. A valid area daily hunting tag and nontoxic shot are required. Call Columbia Bottom at 314-877-6014 or Upper Mississippi at 573-898-5905 for more information.
(Courtesy of Missouri Department of Conservation)