Photography courtesy of Lowell Washburn, all rights reserved.
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.