White-winged doves add more meat to harvest

The dove hunting season gets underway Saturday in the Sportsman’s Paradise, except on WMAs and LDWF-leased private lands. To learn more about dove hunting on WMAs and LDWF leases, go to www.wlf.louisiana.gov/hunting/dove.

Hundreds of dove hunters across the Sportsman’s Paradise, including some from the Teche Area, will shoulder shotguns and knock down doves in some of the most exciting and rewarding wing shooting when the season opens Saturday.

For Dave McHugh, Ronnie Dressel and others in and around Iberia Parish, the excitement and reward is a few months down the road because dove hunting this close to the coast year-in and year-out isn’t at its best until October, at least. They’ll be doing other things than dove hunting this coming weekend and for the rest of the first split, which ends Sept. 15 in the South Zone.

For example, McHugh, of Loreauville, plans to head east to his deer hunting lease in Mississippi, where he, his son and a few others have their work cut out for them because of wind damage from Hurricane Barry. The heavily wooded area’s trees were downed by high winds, he said.

“We’re way behind on that deer lease. We have a lot to do,” McHugh, 67, said Tuesday morning.

In other words, he won’t be thinking about dove hunting’s first split.

“Normally, we don’t start hunting doves until the latter part of the season, November,” McHugh said, noting he has enough tasty dove meat in the freezer to last until then “I’ve learned from past experience migratory doves don’t arrive until late October, November. We’ve got a few birds right now, just local birds.”

And when he and his dove hunting guests start dove hunting, the action can be hot and heavy on family property off Daspit Road in rural Iberia Parish.

“Last year we did well (limits per each dove hunter) up to the last weekend — really big, beautiful doves,” said the retired owner of Professional Coating Applicators at the Port of Iberia.

Dressel, also of Loreauville, won’t be out dove hunting any time soon in his newly leveled 7-acre dove hunting field with 4-foot high browntop millet, which he planted the week before the Fourth of July. “Not the first split. We don’t go out on that one. We wait until the second season,” Dressel said.

“You save the rods and reels and take the guns out,” the accomplished bass fisherman said.

Acadiana’s “rainy season,” which has been wetter than usual, has left McHugh high and dry with no browntop millet planted in his dove field.

“I normally plant browntop millet but it’s been so wet I haven’t been able to. It’s the first time I ever get caught like that in over 20 years,” he said, then explained he intended to plant several weeks ago before the daily rains came.

“It was so dry. I had the ground ready. Then it started raining,” he said.

It takes 60-90 days for the browntop millet to mature. He still might plant sometime soon.

Dressel had no such problem. After a farmer laser-leveled the dove field earlier this year to eliminate seven ditches that acted like drains and collected as much as 2 inches of browntop millet seed after it was cut, Dressel chopped up the ground and planted.

So many weeks later the browntop millet is 4-feet high and ready to be cut, probably the second week of September. However, he plans to cut only a little more than half the field and wait for the second split Oct. 12-Nov. 17 in the South Zone.

Local doves will frequent and eat in the field more and more. Then, when migratory birds arrive, the local birds help attract the newcomers.

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