In a world recently affected by ongoing changes, trying something new isn’t necessarily at the top of our lists. A silver lining in all of the pandemic turmoil is that families have more quality time to spend with each other; seeking new adventures has become a priority. Dove hunting may be just the ticket as seasons start opening across the country in September, and it’s a prime opportunity to jump into some #ResponsibleRecreation this fall.
Dove hunting has a long-standing tradition as a family activity. In fact, it could be considered a community activity as friends, neighbors and extended family members toss banter and taunts across the field at the speed of which their quarry flies.
In many states, dove hunting is prioritized by state agencies as an entry point into hunting, with a dove hunt often a new hunter’s first taste of the chase. The sport requires little gear — only a shotgun (with a plug) and some camo. With a minimal amount of tutelage on how to ID doves on the wing, proper gun handling and dove-field etiquette, most can have fun and success in short order. Attending a hunter education class followed up by a mentored hunt can put you on the right path to the start of a fun and delicious family tradition.
NWTF chapters across the country work with state agencies to hold mentored dove hunts on public and private dove fields. In Missouri, they focus on co-op private fields for their R3 (hunter recruitment, retention and reactivation) hunts to increase opportunities and provide a safe place for first-timers. These hunts are a partnership between the NWTF, Missouri Department of Conservation, Pheasants Forever/Quail Forever, Missouri Prairie Foundation and private landowners.
“When the NWTF started planning its state Save the Habitat. Save the Hunt. strategic plans, the Missouri Department of Conservation suggested partnering to build and maintain dove fields on private lands to supplement existing public dove fields and to provide a safe environment for educating new hunters,” NWTF District Biologist John Burk said.
MDC contributes up to $15,000 annually to offset the NWTF’s cost of constructing and maintaining these fields. In the seven-year partnership, the NWTF has helped construct more than 500 acres of dove fields, and the mentored hunts have introduced 600 new hunters to the fold.
Even during COVID-19 circumstances, the MDC and NWTF have approved season-opening hunts on Sept. 1.
“We’ll practice social distancing,” Burk said. “People will wear masks and gloves, and most participants bring their own mentors. The great thing is that all of the participants are brand new hunters.”
Adding new people to the pastime is important to the future of hunting, but also for more practical reasons. Hunters and recreational shooters shoulder the brunt of conservation funding through license sales and excise taxes on firearms and ammunition. Having more hunters increases the funding available for natural resource conservation; it also means a stronger voice for those resources and the outdoor and hunting lifestyle.
A mentored dove hunt is a great opportunity to give hunting a try, and, in the process, create a new family tradition.
If you live in Missouri and would like to participate in a mentored dove hunt, there are still spots available. Visit monwtf.org and click on the 2020 Dove Hunt link to register.
For other mentored hunting opportunities, visit the Events section of NWTF.org to find one near you.