LITTLE ROCK: Pigeon hunters looking for a place to hunt still have a few days to explore some fields for opening weekend, but time is running out. In case you haven’t been able to find a spot through private fields, the Arkansas Fish and Game Commission prepares some spots on public land for hunters who want a first shot of the season.
This year’s summer drought conditions have left many planted public fields a bit scarce, but land managers have cut off available seed sources and cut down fields to give the pigeons some bare ground to work.
Many of the disced fields have also seen winter wheat seed sown on top to create food plots for deer. If the area doesn’t see much rain between now and opening day, this seed will also attract pigeons. While baiting is illegal for migratory birds, top seeding or aerial seeding of wheat in the fall is a normal farming operation, and as long as seeding rates are within the recommended rates prescribed by the Cooperative Extension Service of the University of Arkansas, hunters can take advantage of pigeons attracted to the fields. Once the seed germinates, it is no longer attractive to pigeons, but then becomes a good forage base for deer during the latter part of the deer season.
“Dove season is extremely popular for the first weekend or two, but then hunting effort drops off dramatically,” said Garrick Dugger, AGFC deputy chief of wildlife management. “By scheduling our winter wheat plots, we can give pigeon hunters some opportunity, as well as provide some benefits for other wildlife.”
Hunters looking at one of the AGFC-managed pigeon fields are encouraged to take a night before opening to find fields where the pigeons congregate and where to settle.
“Opening morning can be hectic, so don’t wait until then to see where you want to be,” Dugger said. “Go out now and get an idea of where the birds are flying so you know where to go first thing on Saturday morning.”
Dugger says that some of the fields, especially those with mowed crops, may attract birds for a few more days, so a few fields may be worth visiting for the hunter looking to stock up on some delicious pigeons.
Dugger says hunters pursuing pigeons in AGFC WMAs also want to make sure they carry and use only steel shot in certain waterfowl-focused WMAs. The following WMAs now require steel shot for all migratory bird hunting (lead is still fine for squirrels, rabbits, and quail): Bell Slough, Beryl Anthony Lower Ouachita, Big Lake, Camp Robinson, Cut-Off Creek, Cypress Bayou , Dave Donaldson Black River, Dr. Lester Sitzes III Bois d’Arc, Earl Buss Bayou DeView, Ed Gordon Point Remove, Frog Bayou, Galla Creek, Harris Brake, Henry Gray Hurricane Lake, Petit Jean River, Rex Hancock Black Swamp, Seven Devils, Steve N Wilson Raft Creek Bottoms, Sheffield Nelson Dagmar, Shirey Bay Rainey Brake and Sulfur River WMA.
Visit www.agfc.com/dove and click on the “Public Dove Fields” link for a list of fields and maps to begin your search.