Photo by Dan Cook Scenes like this at Hiwassee Refuge will begin appearing as dove hunters take the field.
Field preparation for Tennessee’s mourning dove season has gone well. Biologists and hunters just hope early results reflect the effort.
Biologists say 80-90 percent of about 2 million doves annually harvested by nearly 100,000 hunters in the Volunteer State are killed during opening week. The season starts Wednesday.
Fields in the North Chickamauga Creek Wildlife Management Area, including the Varner Unit — just off Cassandra Smith Road in Hixson — and the Lower Mill Road area’s Rogers and Hixson units appear ready, according to Marc Lipner of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency’s Region 3 office in Crossville.
“The WMAs are all pretty well squared away,” he said, adding that a number of TWRA-leased fields also will be available on opening day.
Did you know?
The mourning dove is the most harvested game bird in North America. Hunters get nearly 45 million of the continent’s estimated 450 million doves every year.
Tennessee segments are Sept. 1-26, Oct. 9-24 and Dec. 19-Jan. 15. Georgia’s dates are Sept. 4-9, Oct. 9-17 and Nov. 26-Jan. 8. For all but a few extreme southern counties, Alabama’s dates are Sept. 4-Oct. 3, Oct. 23-Nov. 6 and Dec. 11-Jan. 4. The daily bag limit is 15 in all three states.
The Varner and Rogers units offer various size fields of bushhogged wheat, sunflowers and millet. The Hixson unit has bushhogged wheat and sunflowers.
The Hiwassee Refuge, near Birchwood, has sunflowers and millet, along with 10 acres in corn.
One of the most promising spots, Lipner said, is the wheat-planted Hannah Dairy Farm in Bradley County. It’s one of two leased fields in Bradley; the other is the Beaty Farm.
The Allen Sharpe Field in Dunlap has 40 acres of corn silage, and Spring City’s James Porter field has 25 acres in wheat and millet.
The annual H&W dove hunt will be held Wednesday at Pikeville, beginning at noon CDT, for $20 per person. Anyone interested should call Brian Wyatt at (423) 240-5533.
Northwest Georgia is a different story in regard to preparation. Extremely limited planting is among the changes forced by budget cutbacks, according to biologist David Gregory of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Resources Division.
“I would say it’s going to be rated poorly,” Gregory said, “We didn’t plant much this year because we couldn’t afford to.”
Georgia wildlife personnel have worked with a few farmers in trying to enhance sites on the Crockford-Pigeon Wildlife Management Area west of LaFayette. Probably the most productive area of the WMA will be the Mountain Cove section, Gregory said, but it won’t be ready for the opening segment of the season.
“It will be a second-season hunt,” he said.
One farmer planted Crockford-Pigeon’s Blue Hole area in exchange for the right to harvest the hay. It has browntop with a little wheat around the border,
The Estelle field is not expected to be productive.
Berry WMA, near Rome, normally is a popular place with Georgia dove hunters, but it has had problems also.
“We’ve got wheat and millet planted there,” Gregory said. “We had sunflowers (planted) but had 100 percent failure on them. We think the deer ate them.”
Georgia’s Pinelog WMA normally gets planted but did not this year due to the budget crisis. However, it will be planted next year, Gregory said.
J.L. Lester WMA, near Rome, has some volunteer wheat appearing, he said.
For more details on Tennessee’s WMA and leased fields, see www.state.tn.us/twra/dovemain.html.