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Dove season to start this fall (05/23/2004)
Gov. Tim Pawlenty signed legislation Wednesday that will clear the way for Minnesota's first mourning dove season this fall in nearly 60 years.

The season will provide additional opportunities for an estimated 30,000 to 50,000 Minnesota hunters with no adverse effect on the bird's population, according Ed Boggess, assistant chief of the DNR Wildlife Division.

The mourning dove is the most abundant migratory game bird in the United States, with an estimated fall population of 400 million birds. Minnesota has a fall population of approximately 10 million to 12 million birds. Mourning doves are most commonly hunted in or near open fields, along tree lines and near watering areas.

"Mourning doves are found in diverse habitats ranging from deserts to pine forests throughout the 48 contiguous states," Boggess said. "Years of population monitoring and study have shown that regulated hunting does not harm dove populations. We support a season so Minnesota hunters can utilize the resource."

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which has regulatory authority for migratory game birds, authorizes states to set seasons between Sept. 1 and Jan. 15. Seasons may be open for 60 days with a daily bag limit of 15 birds, or up to 70 days with a daily bag limit of 12.

Although no final decision has been made, Boggess said Minnesota will probably open the season on or near Sept. 1 with a daily bag limit of 15.

"Mourning doves are early migrants, beginning in late August," Boggess said. "Most of the birds will have moved out of the state by late September."

Hunters legally licensed to take small game will be able to hunt mourning doves with no additional stamp or license requirement.

Because mourning doves are migratory birds, hunters also need to be certified in the Migratory Bird Harvest Information Program (HIP). To be HIP certified, hunters must identify themselves as migratory bird hunters when they purchase a small game license or sports license. HIP certification is free.

Currently mourning dove hunting is legal in 40 of the 48 contiguous states. Approximately 25 million doves are harvested annually nationwide. The Fish and Wildlife Service coordinates an annual mourning dove call-count in cooperation with state agencies nationwide. Breeding populations have been monitored since 1966.

"Aside from additional hunting opportunity, a mourning dove season would also generate significant economic benefits in rural Minnesota, particularly in southern and western counties of the state," Boggess said. "Dove hunting is also an excellent way to introduce new hunters to wing shooting."

Minnesota upland game bird hunters spend more than $62 million in retail sales each year, according to the International Association of Fish and Wildlife. 


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