2010-06-11 / General Stories

Prepare Year-Round for Good Dove Hunting

The anticipation of the opening day of dove season in Texas is perhaps only secondary to the opening of deer season. Dove season offers hunters their first opportunity to head afield in pursuit of game and marks the beginning of fall hunting. Most dove hunting is conducted over feeding fields, stock tanks and natural flyways but not every property will offer such opportunities.

When feeding fields or food plots are absent on a hunting area it is possible to create one to improve the success of the hunt and the quality of the habitat. Native foods such as sunflower, croton, and ragweed are easily encouraged and add the benefit of low maintenance, disease resistance and drought tolerance due to their adaptations to the local climates. Promoting these plant species is as simple as finding good soils on the property and disking areas in the time period from November through February with the best times in December and January. Disturbing the soil will create conditions favorable for germination of native seeds that are present in the seed bank and will promote the aspect of bare ground for feeding.

Native sunflowers produce a good food source in August and September and crotons and ragweeds will provide food sources in late September and into the winter months. After the dove season simply disk the area again in the winter disking time period and you should get another stand of good dove foods the following year.

As with many years, it may be impossible to disk the ground in the preferred time period for winter disking due to wet soils and summer food plots may be the only alternative. Timing of these plots should be set to make use of available rainfall, growing season, and production timing of the plants to be used. Commercial seeds that may be considered for food plots for doves include but are not restricted to milo, millets, corn, sunflowers and wheat. A point to remember is although these plants are engineered to produce a harvestable grain, a food plot is not a farm field. Allow native grasses and weeds to persist when possible. Remember, commercial grains are not disease resistant and often cannot tolerate drought whereas native plants are adapted to such conditions. Other considerations for planting a food plot with commercial available grains include preparation of the

seed bed, addition of commercial fertilizers, and deferment of livestock and potentially application of pesticides to protect the crop.

In the fall prior to hunting season it is advisable to shred strips in your food plot to make seeds stored in the seed heads available to the ground feeding. Shred strips in the field leaving at least 2/3 of the crop standing. A week or so after the opening of the season shred an adjacent strip to the previously shredded area. Continue this procedure until the entire field is shredded. This will allow for a slow release of the food source for the birds thus a continual feeding area and will also allow for cover for hunters and a clear drop zone to find downed birds. When the season is over and winter sets in hook up the disk and start again with winter disking to promote the native forbs or to begin work on preparing the seed bed for your spring plot.

To contact your local biologist or sign up for a free “Eye on Nature” e-newsletter or other free email updates, visit http:// www.tpwd.state.tx.us/opfieldnotes.

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