I might suggest Wellington State Wildlife Area, and not just the most accessible area.
DENVER, Colo. –After months of anticipation, hunters can celebrate the beginning of Colorado’s small-game hunting seasons when dove season opens statewide Wednesday, Sept. 1. An abundant dove population coupled with nearly 170,000 acres of “free” walk-in hunting access will offer ample opportunities for eager wing shooters.
“This year’s dove season looks very promising,” said Ed Gorman, Division of Wildlife small-game manager. “Bird numbers are good and we haven’t had any significant cold weather in August to expedite migration. If this trend continues, there should be an excellent number of doves out there for the season opener.”
Approximately 14,000 hunters participate in Colorado’s dove season annually, making the small, fast-flying birds one of the state’s most popular and sought-after small-game species.
“Doves pose a significant challenge for even the most experienced and skilled shotgun enthusiast,” said Mark Cousins, DOW hunter education coordinator. “In most cases, people miss more birds than they bring home, but a little practice goes a long way to improving success. There is still some time for hunters to get out there and shoot a box or two of shells at the local sporting clays course before opening day.”
Colorado is home to three species of doves: the native mourning dove, the native white-winged dove, and the nonnative Eurasian collared-dove.
In addition to their popularity among hunters, doves are also Colorado’s most plentiful game bird and are widely dispersed throughout the state. Doves are most abundant in the plains areas east of I-25, and according to annual harvest surveys, hunters in Weld, Morgan, Adams, Arapahoe, Logan, Larimer, Yuma, Pueblo, Otero and Prowers counties harvest the greatest number of birds.
Although plentiful, doves are affected greatly by changes in the weather. One major cold front can trigger migration, causing the fair-weather birds to flee south to New Mexico, Arizona, Texas and Mexico. Therefore, Gorman offers the following caveat to hunters:
“Hunt early and often, particularly in northeast Colorado where doves typically begin migrating by late August,” Gorman said. “Hunters should also pay close attention to the weather in the upcoming days and weeks. While it is rare that a cool front will result in a mass migration, extended cool weather can reduce the numbers of doves and, more commonly, change distribution in certain areas.”
As the season progresses, Gorman says hunters should follow the birds as they move south.
“As dove populations decrease in northern Colorado, dove numbers in the southeast are building, offering great late-season opportunity into October,” said Gorman.
The DOW has opened more than 170,000 acres of private land to hunters through its early-season Walk-In Access program to provide even greater opportunities and land access to dove and other small-game hunters.
Beginning this year, small-game hunters are no longer required to purchase permits to hunt Walk-In Access properties. WIA properties are now open to all hunters who possess a valid small-game license.
“Removing the barrier of the access fee makes this already successful program even better,” said Gorman. “In addition, hunters who plan accordingly and do some pre-season scouting could be well rewarded on some of these WIA properties.”
Early-season WIA properties open Sept. 1, and many offer good opportunities for dove hunting. For best results, hunters should search for properties supporting food crops, including wheat stubble, proso-millet stubble and sunflower fields. Areas located near water and roosting sites should also hold good numbers of doves, helping hunters to fill the generous 15-bird daily bag limit.
Colorado’s dove season runs from Sept. 1 through Nov. 9, statewide.
Small-game and upland hunters can also look forward to the debut of the following hunting seasons in the upcoming days and weeks:
Sept. 1-Oct. 3 (West of I-25 and Game Management Units 140)
Sept. 1-Oct. 22 (East of I-25, excluding Game Management Unit 140)
Blue (Dusky) Grouse
Sept. 1-Nov. 21 (all Game Management Units west of I-25
Sept. 12-20 (Lake and Chaffee Counties and east of I-25
Sept. 1-Nov. 28 (statewide)
Pheasant and Quail
Nov. 13 (season ending dates vary, please see 2010 Small Game Brochure for details)
The Colorado Division of Wildlife reminds small-game hunters to have a safe 2010-11 hunting season and to be mindful of the following regulations and advisories before heading into the field:
Walk-In Access Program Atlas
The 2010 “early-season” Walk-In Access Program Brochure/Atlas is available at any authorized license agent or DOW office. An electronic version is also available on the DOW website at:
The Walk-In Atlas provides detailed descriptions of each property, including the type of cover crop (corn, grass, wheat stubble, etc.) and offers other useful information and tips for hunters.
Beginning this September, hunters may shoot Eurasian collared-doves year-round and enjoy unlimited bag and possession limits for this species.
Native to Asia, Eurasian collared-doves are a relative newcomer to Colorado and are considered an invasive species in the United States. In the mid-1970s, Eurasian collared-doves were introduced to the Bahaman Islands, spread to Florida and have expanded their range across the United States during the last three decades. The doves migrated to Colorado in the mid-1990s and have adapted well to Colorado’s variable climate. Unlike native dove species, Eurasian doves remain in Colorado year-round. Unlimited bag and possession limits and a year-round season have been established to help control their population.
Photos of Eurasian collared-doves are available here:
Harvest Information Program (HIP)
All small-game hunters must register with the Harvest Information Program before hunting anywhere in Colorado. The HIP is a joint effort between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the DOW, and it is designed to improve small-game migratory bird-harvest estimates. Colorado requires all small-game hunters to sign up with HIP to help the Division better estimate harvest for species that are difficult to address through a general small-game survey. Hunters may obtain HIP numbers by calling 1-866-COLOHIP (265-6447) or by going to the Colorado HIP website at:
HIP numbers must be written in the space provided on small-game licenses.
2010 Small Game Brochure
For further information on dove and all other small-game hunting seasons, including bag and possession limits, please obtain a copy of the 2010 Colorado Small Game Brochure. Brochures are available at any DOW office, license agent or may be viewed on the DOW website at:
Mourning Dove Banding Program
The DOW, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and 12 other states are participating in a mourning dove banding project. This effort is part of a nationwide program to help biologists determine annual survival rates, harvest rates and distribution of the harvest, as well as to refine techniques for future dove-banding programs. Throughout the summer, doves were trapped, fitted with aluminum, individually numbered leg bands and then released.
To assist with this research, the DOW is asking dove hunters to look for leg bands on the mourning doves they shoot. Hunters are a critical link in this mourning dove banding study. By checking all harvested doves for bands and reporting banded doves, hunters help biologists manage this important migratory game bird. Because dove bands are small, hunters can easily overlook the bands, so all birds should be checked carefully. Hunters may encounter doves banded by other states as well.
Hunters who harvest banded doves are asked to report the band number to the Federal Bird Banding Laboratory (www.reportband.gov or 1-800-327-BAND).
Early-season hunters need to be aware of rattlesnakes. Hunters with dogs should be particularly mindful of their surroundings. If a dog is bitten by a rattlesnake, take the dog to a veterinarian immediately. A veterinarian can perform the appropriate medical analysis, treatments and inject anti-venom if needed. Dogs can now be vaccinated against rattlesnake bites. But if bitten, even vaccinated dogs should be taken to a veterinarian as soon as possible.
For more information about Division of Wildlife go to: http://wildlife.state.co.us.