Photography courtesy of Lowell Washburn, all rights reserved.
Iowa’s fall dove season begins Sept. 1st, when around ten thousand licensed hunters are expected to take to the fields in search of North America’s most abundant migratory gamebird. According to U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service surveys, dove populations in the “Lower 48” stood at 279 million on September 1, 2016. During the 2016 dove season, a total of 837,800 hunters spent 2,431,000 days afield and bagged 13,502,000 doves.
In Iowa, 9,700 dove hunters spent 25,300 days afield and harvested 128,000 doves during 2016. The average harvest per hunter was 13.2 doves for the season. Texas is America’s number one dove hunting state; where 220,700 hunters bagged 4,892,100 doves in 2016.
State and federal wildlife biologists monitor dove populations nationwide through a variety of tools that include spring call counts, August roadside surveys, hunter surveys and analysis of dove bands recovered and reported by hunters. During July and August, wildlife biologists annually band around 2,000 mourning doves in Iowa. Band recoveries have shown that Iowa doves may winter as far south as Texas and Mexico. Some fly all the way to Cuba and Central America.