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Outdoor Life: Be prepared for dove season
Alvin Richardson
Alvin Richardson

Points to Remember
    You need a resident hunting license ($10) and an HIP permit (free) in order to hunt.
    Legal shooting hours are from 12:00 noon on opening day until sunset.  All subsequent days are one half hour before sunrise until sunset.
    The bag limit is 15 doves per day but hunters may take as many Eurasian collared doves as they wish.  The possession limit is 30 doves.
    There are three separate seasons for doves so check your DNR regulations to make sure you are hunting within the specified days.

Major changes to regulations  
    Two new wildlife management areas: Chattahoochee Fall Line WMA (near Geneva) and Spirit Creek Forest WMA (near Augusta) will both open to hunting opportunities this fall.
    New License Opportunities: A non-resident infant lifetime license is now available for infants under the age of 2.  Also, full-time active duty military personnel and their dependents are now eligible to purchase hunting and fishing licenses at resident fee prices (some exclusions apply)
    Firearms Change: Suppressed firearms are now legal for hunting on private land with landowner permission.

The opening day of dove season is September 6, and having a go at these gray rockets is the overwhelming favorite of wing shooters all over Georgia. 
    The first shots can be fired at noon on opening day, and with those initial salvos Georgia’s hunting season will begin to move into full swing.
    In order to make your dove shoot an enjoyable one, here are some tips to help with the placement of your blinds, the type of shells to purchase, and advice on how to avoid a ticket from the local DNR guys.
    Veteran dove hunters know that having a ranger or conservation officer from the Department of Natural Resources walk over your field ahead of time is a good way to insure that you and your hunting partners will not get a citation while dove hunting.  Even if you think your field is completely legal it is still advisable to invite a ranger over just to make sure. Sometimes a slight change in the rules for ground preparation can cause you to cross over the line, and these guys are the experts in that area. They will appreciate the fact that you are trying to do things the right way and that goes a long way toward avoiding problems that can spoil the fun of that first day.
    Even if the field is legal, there are other common errors hunters make that could earn them a ticket. One thing to be sure of is to have your shotgun plugged. That means that only three shells at a time can be loaded. Most modern automatic shotguns can hold five shells if they are unplugged. To check yours, simply try to put a fourth shell in the magazine and if you can, the gun would be illegal in the field.
    Another common way to get cited is for having killed too many birds.  The present limit is 15 per day, and if the rangers check your stand and there are more than the allowed number you will be given a ticket.
    It’s easy in the excitement of a good hunt to lose track of how many you have, and a citation is no fun. Don’t try to hide them in the woods because the rangers have seen all the tricks and you will simply compound your error (and probably your fine.)
    Always follow the rules of gun safety.
    Scout the field a few times before the hunt to determine the best places to situate stands. Doves will follow certain pathways as they enter and leave a field. If you have your field in the same place year in and out, you may have an idea but experience tells me that those routes can change sometimes. Having this information in advance will give you a better idea where to set up and enhance your chances for success.
    Another idea along these lines is to find isolated trees near the field where doves sometimes stop to check things out before committing to the field. A stand near one of these trees is a good choice. If there is a watering hole or a place where the doves can pick up gravel in close proximity to the field you have found another good option for a place to set up.
    Camouflage is another key component that translates directly to success rate. On opening day doves are not as wary as they will be after being shot at a few times, but it is still best to build blinds and wear camo. You will get more shots and closer shots if you cover up. 
    Picking out a good shotgun shell is important to your hunting success and they can be expensive. The more powder and shot they are loaded with, the more expensive they are. 
    During the first season I usually go with less powder and shot simply because the birds are more likely to come in closer. A good choice for opening day is probably a lower brass shell (3 1/4 ounces of powder and 1 1/8 ounces of shot) with number seven and a half or eight shot. 
    Shooting a gun with an improved cylinder typically gives you a wider shot spread and a better chance to hit birds, although it is not ideal for shooting at birds from long range.

    Alvin Richardson is a contributing writer, retired educator, and public speaker. Contact him at