The pop-pop of shotgun fire on opening day of dove season rings in the new year on a hunting calendar.
Dove hunting season opens Saturday across Arkansas. It's the traditional start of fall hunting, with deer season and duck season close behind.
Never mind a Canada goose season opened Sept. 1 and squirrel season is open now and most of the year. Dove season is the start of hunting at most households.
Doves are hit and miss in a couple of ways. Arkansas Game and Fish Commission has a number of dove hunting fields across the state, including Northwest Arkansas. But most dove hunting takes place on private land. Aspiring dove hunters score a big hit if they gain permission to hunt a farmer's field.
Shooting at doves can be more miss than hit. Mourning doves are known for their fast, diving and darting flight. It's darned near impossible to bag a limit of 15 doves with one box of 25 shotgun shells. Best bring two or three boxes.
Game and Fish prepares public dove hunting fields in the Wedington Wildlife Management Area of the Ozark National Forest east of Siloam Springs.
Two fields are located along Arkansas 16 west of Lake Wedington on the south side of the highway. More fields are located off Kinchloe Road east of Siloam Springs, which is reached via U.S. 412. Kinchloe Road heads off to the south from 412. Go about one mile to a sharp bend in the paved road. Turn right on the gravel road and go another one-half mile to the first dove field. More fields are located farther down the gravel road.
Another field west of Lake Wedington can be reached via Arkansas 16 by turning south on Wedington Blacktop Road. Go about three miles to Krie Road, which is on the left. A line of poultry barns can be seen at the intersection.
Drive about a mile on Krie Road until it turns sharply to the right. Turn left here, cross over a cattle guard and park. The large dove field is off to the right.
Game and Fish plants dove-attracting crops in the fields, said Richard Bowen, wildlife biologist with the agency.
"We've done things a little different with the forage this year. We planted sunflowers before, but the deer were eating all the sunflowers. That just left mostly stems sticking up."
For this season, winter wheat and millet have been sown.
"A lot of that millet and winter wheat has grown some pretty big heads that have dried up. Before the season we'll mow the fields to scatter the seeds. There should be no shortage of food for the doves to eat."
Workers have already seen good numbers of doves on the fields, Bowen added. If doves are migrating, hunting could be good.
These fields are first-come, first-served so expect some company on opening weekend. Dove season lasts into October and reopens for a second segment in January. Most of the hunting is on opening weekend. After that, hunter interest drops sharply.
A couple of us visited the Wedington fields last season, the Friday after opening weekend. We saw one other hunter the entire morning and invited him to hunt with us. Birds were scarce. Three or four shots were fired and our new friend bagged the only dove.
Game plan is to visit the fields again this season, after opening weekend.
Flip Putthoff can be reached at [email protected]