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Dove season opens Saturday
Hunters reminded of state laws
A hunter takes aim at a flock of doves. Dove hunting season in Georgia opens Saturday at noon.
A hunter takes aim at a flock of doves. Dove hunting season in Georgia opens Saturday at noon.

Georgia dove hunters are excited about the opening of the season on Saturday and wildlife officials want to remind them to abide by the rules. 

In the past, hunters could not take aim on opening day until noon, but a change in state law last year now allows the hunt to begin at “30 minutes before sunrise,” said Cpl. Mike Wilcox, with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources in Metter. Hunting must end at sunset, he said. 

There often is confusion about hunting over fields where grain has been harvested. There is a difference between hunting over natural agricultural operations and hunting over bait, he said. A field is not considered “baited” as long as any crop residue such as spilled grains were grown on site.

However, if someone intentionally scatters grain, seeds or rock salt, “that is considered a baited field” and is illegal, Wilcox said.

Fields planted with corn, millet, sunflowers, sorghum and wheat are legal and likely will attract doves, which feed upon grains and seeds found on the ground. 
Even if someone baits a field, then removes the bait before hunting, they must wait 10 days before hunting over that field, Wilcox said. 

Another question many hunters may have is whether a license is necessary to hunt on private land.

“A small game license and a Georgia Waterfowl and Migratory Bird Harvest Information Program (HIP) permit, is required” for all migratory bird hunters 16 or older, seeking doves, ducks, geese, woodcock, snipe, coots, rails or gallinules, Wilcox said.

According to gohuntgeorgia.com, the HIP permit is free and can be obtained anywhere hunting licenses are available after filling out a migratory bird hunter questionnaire. Those holding honorary hunting licenses are exempt from needing a HIP permit. 

Georgia’s dove season is split into three periods; in 2022, the seasons are Sept. 3-Oct. 9, Nov. 19-27 and Dec. 19, 2022 to Jan. 31, 2023. 

Wilcox said the dove bag limit is 15 birds per hunter, per day, with a limit of 45 in possession. 

Hunters must also only use shotguns plugged to limit “one (shell) in the chamber and two in the magazine.” 

Bulloch County sports shops are reporting the usual flurry of customers visiting tores in search of guns, ammunition and other items necessary for dove hunting. Katie Hodges, with Backwoods Armory in Brooklet, said the surge of hunters is “no more than normal” for just before a hunting season opens, except “everybody is looking for shells.”

Since the COVID pandemic, shells have been in short supply, she said. “The 4-10 shells are nonexistent.”

Employees at TC Outdoors also report the usual influx of hunters, and said 20 gauge and higher- powered shells are also on limited availability. 

For more information ago online at www.gohuntgeorgia.com or call the DNR's Metter office at (912) 685-2145. 

 

Holli Deal Saxon is a Herald writer. She may be reached at (912) 243-7815. 

 

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