Excitement mounts as traditional opening of hunting season approaches with the Sept. 1 dove season; 10 days added to this year's season
PRATT — It's mid-August, and hunters young and old anxiously await the traditional opening of fall hunting seasons, which begins when dove season opens Sept. 1. Preparation begins when hunters dust off their shotguns and wingshooting skills with a little clay target shooting, the most important part of preparation.

While mourning doves are the primary quarry, this year, more hunters are talking about opportunities provided by the growing number of Eurasian collared doves, a non-native species. This dove has been in Kansas for a number of years, but their numbers have grown to the point that this larger dove can represent a significant portion of a hunters bag. In addition, Kansans may hunt the white-winged dove — a native species seen more frequently in recent years — as well as the ringed turtle dove, another non-native species.

Although most dove hunting takes place the first two weeks of September, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has given hunters an extra 10 days to hunt doves this year. The native dove season will run Sept. 1-Oct. 31 and Nov. 7-15. During this time, the daily bag limit of 15 applies to mourning and white-winged doves, "single species or in combination." Eurasian collared doves and ringed turtle doves may be taken in addition to this daily bag, but they must have a fully-feathered wing attached while being transported. There are no bag and possession limits for Eurasian collared doves and ringed turtle doves. The possession limit for mourning and white-winged doves is 30.

A separate exotic dove season will open Nov. 20 and run through February 28, 2010. During this season, only Eurasian collared doves and ringed turtle doves may be taken; there is no daily bag or possession limit; and doves must be transported with a fully-feathered wing attached.

One excellent source of hunting places can be found in the 2009 Kansas Hunting Atlas, which will be online at the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (KDWP) website, www.kdwp.state.ks.us, in late August. Printed copies also will be available in late August at many license vendors and all KDWP offices. This booklet contains maps of Kansas public hunting areas, as well as Walk-In Hunting Access (WIHA) lands in the state.

Another essential tool for the hunter is the 2009 Kansas Hunting and Furharvesting Regulations Summary, currently available on the KDWP website and available in printed form in late August. This booklet contains a list of public wildlife areas, as well as illustrations of the four dove species that may be hunted.

Because they are migratory game birds, doves are federally regulated. Federal rules require that shotguns be plugged to hold no more than three shells. A valid Kansas hunting license and Harvest Information Stamp (HIP) are required to hunt doves, unless exempt by law. Those exempt include hunters younger than 16 or 65 or older and those hunting on their own land.

Seeds freshly planted or otherwise distributed for the purpose of luring, attracting, or enticing doves within gun range is illegal. Doves may not be hunted in an area where grain, salt, or other feed has been placed to improve dove hunting.

Doves may be hunted over agricultural crops, other feed, and natural vegetation that have been mowed, shredded, disked, rolled, chopped, trampled, flattened, burned, or sprayed. However, doves may not be hunted where seeds, grains, or other feed has been distributed after removal from or storage on the field where grown.

For more information about dove hunting and the law, contact the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, 620-672-5911, or visit the KDWP website, www.kdwp.state.ks.us.

In addition to obeying the law when dove hunting, KDWP is asking dove hunters to look for leg bands on the mourning doves they shoot. This data is necessary for understanding population trends and responsibly managing dove harvests. The hunter is a critical link in this mourning dove banding study. By checking all harvested doves for bands and reporting banded doves, hunters help biologists manage this important migratory game bird. Because dove bands are small, hunters can easily overlook the bands, so all birds taken should be checked.

Report banded mourning doves by phoning 1-800-327-BAND (2263). Banded birds may also be reported on the internet at www.reportband.gov. Hunters can keep the bands and will be provided a certificate identifying the age, sex, date, and location the bird was banded.