The calendar has finally flipped to September and that means the official start to the Fall hunting season here in Pennsylvania. This Labor Day weekend, many hunters will be afield pursuing Mourning Doves– the most abundant game animal in North America. This year, the season for doves in Pennsylvania opens on September 1 and runs through November 26. The late dove season runs from December 16 to January 1. No matter where you live in Pennsylvania, there should be fields (both agricultural and non-managed) nearby that attract doves and can provide hunting excitement throughout the Fall– not just in September.
Doves are abundant and challenging animals to hunt. In fact, they provide more opportunity for wingshooting than any other species of bird and estimates are that on Opening Days of dove season nationwide, more shotgun shells are fired than during the entire rest of the bird hunting seasons combined!
The approach to dove hunting can be quite simple: bring a shotgun, pack a couple boxes of shells (you always need more than you think), have a stool to sit on, and wear earth-toned clothing to blend in with your surroundings.
Some hunters choose to take things up a notch by employing decoys, which draw a dove’s attention and can lure them in from a distance. There are even battery-powered spinning wing decoys that really mesmerize the birds and help bring them in for closer, more ethical shots.
Another unique aspect of dove hunting is that you can specially manage the land you hunt (if it’s private) to attract more doves through creating the type of food, cover, and water combinations that they prefer. The new Managed Dove Field program helps hunters understand the best methods for attracting more doves to their property, as well as offering dozens of special fields statewide on public land that are planted in the ideal mix of crops to ensure doves visit often and provide optimal hunting opportunity.
The appeal of dove hunting is easy to understand: warm weather, action-packed hunting, social time with fellow hunters, and a fine reward in the form of tasty dove breasts. There are plenty of great recipes out there to ensure your fresh dove meat is put to good use.
This September, we encourage you to head afield in pursuit of these sporty and fun gamebirds that headline the start of the hunting season.
Be sure to check out the excellent resources about Dove Hunting in Pennsylvania on the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s website, with a variety of tips and tactics to try out in the field this Fall.