Iowa Dove Opener - 2013 - Iowa Wildlife Federation

Iowa Dove Opener – 2013

Photography courtesy of Lowell Washburn, all rights reserved.

1  Opening Day - Waiting for Shooting Time


The 2013 Iowa Dove Opener was accented by strong hunter turnout, unseasonably mild weather and, hunter success that ranged all the way from fair to excellent:  that’s the official assessment of Conservation Officers across the North Central region.  Although mourning dove numbers were high leading into the season, birds were widely scattered and certainly less concentrated than in previous seasons, a situation which may have resulted in overall reduced hunter bags.  I talked to six officers this afternoon [Mon., Sept. 2] and they all had the same report — Smaller concentrations of doves and lots of hunters bagging “half limits” during this year’s opener — down significantly when compared to the 2011 & 2012 seasons when large numbers of hunters bagged 15-bird limits during the dove openers.  There were notable exceptions:  In Hancock county, Ken Lonneman checked a group of 6 hunters who had their limit of 90 doves already in the bag.  The results for most parties, however, were somewhat less spectacular. Skies remained clear Sunday night.  A northerly breeze persisted, dropping temperatures to around 50 degrees in northern Iowa.  [I talked to a friend who is hunting black bear in Minnesota and he said it was 40 degrees there this morning.]  Here in Iowa, there was a visible influx of migrating blue-winged teal, snipe, northern harriers, and Monarch butterflies.  There were also migrating doves, many of which appeared as dots on the horizon and never hesitated until they disappeared as dots in the opposite direction.  Monday’s bag for most hunters, say officers, was well less than half of what it had been the previous morning.  Back in Hancock county, Lonneman checked the same party of six hunters who had taken the 60 doves the day before.  Because the birds were flying so fast and furious the previous day, they had added an additional member to the group.  After hunting the exact same spot, the seven hunters eventually left the field with total of seven doves  — a spectacular decline from the day before. I spent this year’s opener guarding a volunteer stand of giant foxtail  on public land in northern Cerro Gordo county.  Although doves had noticeably declined there today as well, I managed to shoot eight birds in a little less than three hours.  I also saw migrating teal, snipe, and doves.  Many of the ducks were pausing to set down; the vast majority of doves were not.  Where a handful of Monarchs had been present the morning before, the area was alive with them today.

6  Downwind Dove - immature


For a lot of states — and now finally Iowa — the September 1st annual Dove Opener represents an official kickoff to the fall hunting seasons.  When properly managed for, doves are abundant, popular, and accessible.  In addition to supplying high intensity, high volume hunting opportunities to a wide range of enthusiasts, doves also provide first rate table fare.  Whether coming off a hot bed of mesquite embers or sizzling from a cast iron skillet — the season’s first batch of fresh doves is a meal I anticipate weeks in advance.  Back in the ‘Bad Old Days’ when we used to have to travel out of state to hunt doves, those folks left at home couldn’t wait for our return and the chance to sample a portion of the birds we’d brought back to Iowa.  Regardless of when we arrived back home;  the skillets, butter, salt & pepper, and empty plates would be waiting for what had become our traditional welcome home banquet.  It often turned out to be a late night feed and, one memorable occasion, dinner didn’t commence until nearly 1:30 am.  Yea, doves are that good!  Now that mourning doves have finally become legal game in Iowa, the annual celebrations begin shortly after sunset. Final Thought:  Like blue-winged teal mourning doves are a highly temperamental, here today gone tomorrow, migratory bird species.  Considering this weekend’s refreshing cold front, imagine the recreational consequences if we had  waited until next Saturday [the 1st Saturday in Sept.] instead of going with Sept. 1 for this year’s dove opener!8 - Mesquite Dove - Summer squash & okra 9-1-13
 4.4  Foxtail Hide

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