MORRISTOWN, TN – With shotguns in hand and hats shading heads, over one-thousand East Tennessee hunters harvested nearly 5,000 doves on fields leased or owned by TWRA during Tuesday’s opening of the mourning dove hunting season.
Dove hunting on opening day is a longstanding tradition in the state as hunters brave the dust and heat with hopes of filling their bags with a limit of 15 birds. While many don’t get their limits, all appreciate just having a place to hunt.
Considering the mourning dove is highly dependent on agricultural grain fields as a food source, unless you’re a grain farmer or have access to a field, it’s hard to find a good place to hunt. This is when the dove fields on TWRA’s Wildlife Management Areas and privately owned leased fields are worth their weight in lead instead of gold. Lead as in lead shot that is.
This year, TWRA leased nine fields from farmers in east Tennessee to give hunters the opportunity to dove hunt on opening day as well as on September 5 and 7. TWRA also prepared dove fields on six of its Region IV WMAs, which vary on hunting dates. Please refer to https://www.tn.gov/twra/article/region-4-dove-fields for specific dates.
Of the leased fields, the highest hunter turnout was on a field belonging to Billy Barr in Loudon Co. where 279 hunters harvested 1,101 doves averaging 3.9 birds per hunter. The highest number of birds per hunter however came off of the Shipley field in Claiborne Co. where 36 hunters harvested 362 doves averaging 10.1 birds per hunter. O
f the WMA fields managed by the TWRA, the highest total number of birds harvested came off of Kyles Ford WMA in Hancock Co. where 80 hunters took a total of 672 doves. The fields at Buffalo Springs WMA in Grainger Co. however produced the highest number of birds per hunter where 48 hunters harvested 440 doves averaging 9.2 birds per hunter.
The mourning dove is the most hunted and the most harvested migratory game bird in North America. There are about 274 million birds in the continental population and the overall annual harvest in the U. S. is about 14 million birds by 840,000 hunters.
For information on public dove hunting fields in Tennessee, visit https://www.tn.gov/twra/article/dove