More people hunt the mourning dove than any other migratory game bird in North America, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In order to protect doves---and other game birds---federal and Virginia laws govern the hunting of these birds. To spare yourself fines or even jail time, familiarize yourself with these laws before dove hunting.
Virginia divides dove hunting season into three different segments. The first segment begins on Sept. 4 and runs through Oct. 12. You may legally hunt between noon and sunset, Sept. 4-10. Virginia extends dove hunting time for the rest of the first segment---and following segments---to last from half an hour before sunrise until sunset. Dove hunting resumes on Oct. 20 and continues through Nov. 6. The third segment operates from Dec. 27 to Jan. 8. During any dove hunting segment, you can only bag 15 birds per day and be in possession of 30 birds.
Virginia permits dove hunting only on specific wildlife management areas. These areas include Amelia, Briery Creek, Cavalier , Chickahominy, Dick Cross, Fairystone, Featherfin, Hardware River, Carlisle Tract of Hog Island, Horsepen, James River, Pettigrew, C.F. Phelps, Powhatan and White Oak Mountain. If you choose to hunt at one of these locations, you can only do so on Labor Day, Wednesdays and Saturdays during the first segment and any day except Sundays during the second and third segments. You can also legally hunt doves on private land with the permission of the owner as long as the site is not a baited area.
Illegal Hunting Methods
The state has strict laws when it comes to how you hunt doves. You cannot use a trap, snare, rifle pistol, swivel gun, punt gun, machine gun, fish hook, poison, drugs or explosives. When hunting migratory birds with a shotgun, the shotgun must be larger than a 10 gauge. Any shotgun that can hold more than three shells is also illegal unless it is plugged with a one-piece filler. You also cannot shoot doves from a motor vehicles, boat or aircraft. The use of recorded or electrically amplified birds calls is unlawful.
Dove Hunting Tips
Since doves can spot hunters from above as they fly, wear camouflage clothing that matches your surroundings and hunt from behind a blind made out of corn stalks or brush. Just be sure the materials you use for your blind don't spread or drop grains. This would be considered baiting which is illegal. Purchase dove decoys---shell, full-body or robotic---that will lure birds into shooting distance. Before going hunting, scout the location so you can familiarize yourself with dove activity in that areas.
- Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries: Virginia Dove, Woodcock, Snipe, Rail, September Canada Goose, and September Teal 2010-2011
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: Dove Hunting and Baiting
- U.S. Fish and WIldlife Service: Webless Migratory Gamebirds,
- Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries: Hunting On Private Property
- Bass Pro Shops: Dove Hunting Basics
- Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images