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Art Lander’s Outdoors: Kentucky’s fall dove season opens today, season runs through October 26

(Photo from KDFWR)

Kentucky’s fall dove season opens today.

The fall season dates are September 1 through October 26.

The 90-day season is split. The late seasons are November 23 through December 3, and December 23 through January 14, 2024.

The daily bag limit is 15 birds.

Mourning Dove (Photo from Flickr Commons)

Here are three links to the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR) website that provide a wealth of information for dove hunters, including licensing, regulations, public land hunting opportunities, mentored hunts, quota hunt opportunities, a checklist of dove hunting gear, tips on wing shooting, and how to breast out a dove, prior to cooking:

• The Kentucky Hunting and Trapping Guide

• Kentucky Migratory Bird Hunting website

• The KDFWR “New to Dove Hunintg” checklist

A favorite with wing shooters, the Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura) is a strong flier, capable of speeds up to 55 miles per hour. Its wings make a whistling sound at take off and landing, and when flying through crosswinds.

Dove season is highly anticipated, when large flocks gather around agricultural fields, beginning in late August.

Hunts are casual, social affairs, a time when family and friends often get together for a group shoot, followed by a cookout or picnic.

Doves are typically hunted over fields of cut sunflowers, harvested corn and other grains, or harvested tobacco fields, planted with winter wheat as a cover crop.

Life history information

Doves are a native species common to abundant statewide, somewhat less numerous in the heavily-forested mountain counties.

They breed here and are present year-round, but there are fewer numbers of doves here in the winter as many birds flock up and migrate southward. From leg band returns KDFWR biologists have learned that during late seasons doves banded in Kentucky have been taken by hunters as far south as Louisiana and Florida.

Mourning Dove in Nest (Photo from Flickr Commons)

Throughout the cold weather months some local birds may band together with migrants coming down from up north. Small groups move around, often venturing into cities and small towns along the suburban/rural interface.

The Mourning Dove is a statuesque, slender bird, about 12 inches tall, with broad, elliptical wings, rounded head, long tail, dark eyes and a short, black beak.

Its reddish, perching feet, have three forward toes and one reversed.

Plumage is a muted light gray and tan, with black spots.

There are five subspecies.

The Mourning Dove is a member of Family Columbidae, and was first described in the scientific literature in 1758.

Its call is a low mournful coo-ah, coo-ah, coo, coo, coo.

Doves forage on the ground, and feed almost entirely on seeds, favoring the seeds of cultivated grains, but also those of grasses, ragweeds, and other native plants. Only occasionally does a dove eat a snail, and very rarely an insect.

Prolific breeder

Art Lander Jr. is outdoors editor for the Northern Kentucky Tribune. He is a native Kentuckian, a graduate of Western Kentucky University and a life-long hunter, angler, gardener and nature enthusiast. He has worked as a newspaper columnist, magazine journalist and author and is a former staff writer for Kentucky Afield Magazine, editor of the annual Kentucky Hunting & Trapping Guide and Kentucky Spring Hunting Guide, and co-writer of the Kentucky Afield Outdoors newspaper column.

Hunting pressure and other mortality factors on doves are offset by the bird’s prolific breeding. Their annual mortality rate is about 70 percent.

The Mourning Dove breeds in Kentucky, with varying success dependent on the weather, from late winter to early fall.

Their fragile stick nests are constructed in shrubs, cedars or hardwood trees, usually 10 feet or higher off the ground. Often their nests are built where they are vulnerable to stormy and rainy weather. As a result, some nests and young may be lost, which negatively impacts overall nesting success.

In Kentucky, one pair may have fledglings in the nest as early as March and as late as September, cranking out a brood about every 30 days.

In ideal weather conditions it’s possible for one pair of Mourning Doves to produce four to six broods a year, but the average is about two to three.

The females lays two white eggs. Incubation is by both parents, and lasts about 14 days.

Both parents feed young “pigeon milk,” a semi-liquid regurgitation from the adult’s crop.

The young leave nest at about 15 days, usually wait nearby to be fed for the next couple of weeks.

The Mourning Dove is an immensely popular migratory bird with hunters and a welcome visitor to backyard bird feeders in winter.

In the fall doves are highly visible in fields and gravel roadsides, or perched on fences and telephone lines. This time of year local populations are at their highest, as the breeding season comes to an end.

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  1. Bruce C Sensel says:

    Hey Artie…

    I’m an older Pike from WKU, pledged in the fall of ’73, and began working at the Herald-Leader in ’83 in the Fin/Acctg division. Larry Brooks and I were pretty close during our working years there for the most part.

    I’d like to talk to you when you have a chance. Please send me an email on how I can reach you.

    Well, I’m off to Griffith Woods in just a few minutes for opening day.

    Hope you have a good hunt, too.

    Thx, b

  2. Art Lander jr says:

    Bruce my e-mail is



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