The mourning dove earns its name from the plaintive call made by males while attracting females. Set by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, dove hunting begins the fall hunting season. The Pennsylvania Game Commission announces dates in mid-August, which are posted on its website (pgc.state.pa.us), as well as in printed brochures. Hunters must purchase and carry a migratory game bird license in addition to a general hunting, combination or lifetime license.
Doves begin to migrate south from Pennsylvania's autumn fields in flocks of up to 20 birds. In early evening, hunters scout a few weeks in advance in piney areas near water and cornfields. If it is not Pennsylvania Game Commission land, ask permission from local farmers before hunting. No matter where hunting takes place, collecting used shotgun shells and any other trash is proper etiquette. According to an interview in the "Pittsburgh Post-Gazette" with Clint Deniker, Pennsylvania Game Commission Northwest Region law enforcement supervisor, the No. 1 complaint about dove hunters is lack of respect landowners' property.
Once a habitat is located, Pennsylvania dove hunters must wait and watch. You should set a stakeout near flyways, which are the overhead areas doves cross from field to field. In addition, as in turkey hunting, sitting still is necessary. Doves spook easily. They feed on seeds in early in the morning and late in the afternoon, mostly landing on power lines to survey perspective fields.
First, a migratory game bird license is required. At the time of publication, the cost is $3.70 for residents, $6.70 for nonresidents. Camouflage clothing and facial paint are useful against the easily frightened prey. A portable seat with legs that is easy to carry adds footage when shooting, as well as comfort while waiting. Hunters use a shotgun with shells ranging from 7 1/2 through nine, which allows the shot pattern to spread. A retrieving dog helps in finding the downed birds. Hunters also carry a heavy bag for the game, as the daily bag limit in 2010 was 15 doves.
On the Table
Doves make delicious table fare. A dark-meat game, browned then slow cooked, such as in a Crock-Pot, allows tenderizing. To remove the game flavor, soak over night in milk. A skinned breast, although small, produces the most meat from the bird. Serve at least two to three breasts per person. Many recipes suggest serving with wild rice. Doves also wind up in Cajun jambalaya, stews, barbecues and casseroles. Substitute doves in recipes calling for quail.
- "Altoona Mirror"; Dove Hunting Helps Usher in Autumn Gunning Seasons; Shirley Grenoble; August 2010
- "Pittsburgh Post Gazette"; Mourning Doves Are Abundant, But Selection of Stand Sites Is Key to Hunting Success; Ben Moyer; August 2010
- "The Times Leader"; Dove Numbers Offer Opportunity; Tom Venesky; August 2010
- Pennsylvania Game Commission: "Doves;" Wildlife Note 18, LDR0103 (pdf); Chuck Fergus
- Cooks.com: Doves
- Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images