This fall, dove hunters will have additional opportunities on public lands for hunting. The DNR is managing 14 public fields to attract doves on wildlife management areas. The three-to-five-acre fields were planted this summer with small grains, sunflowers, or other crops known to attract doves.
Hunting on these public dove fields requires the use of nontoxic shot. According to data from Missouri, dove hunters might typically shoot four to six times for each bird they harvest. On public dove fields, lead pellets could accumulate quickly and be ingested by doves, pheasants, and other ground-feeding birds.
"There is growing scientific evidence that lead shot poisoning may be causing the loss of large numbers of doves nationwide," said Bill Penning, DNR farmland wildlife program leader.
Concern about lead shot poisoning in waterfowl prompted Minnesota to require waterfowl hunters to use nontoxic shot in 1987. Nontoxic shot has been required for waterfowl hunting nationwide since 1991. All hunters must use nontoxic shot on federal waterfowl production areas.
"We're starting a dove hunting tradition in Minnesota. Let's start it right," said Kevin Auslund, chair of the Minnesota Dove Sportsmen Society. "It's better to start out requiring nontoxic shot on public dove fields rather than having to change regulations in a couple of years."
Lac qui Parle WMA has about one-fourth of the state's managed dove fields. Other new fields will be scattered throughout southern Minnesota and shouldn't interfere with waterfowl hunting. While crop manipulation is legal for dove hunting, it would be considered baiting for waterfowl hunting — therefore these fields will be closed to waterfowl hunting. "Dove fields are placed in areas where waterfowl typically would not go," Penning said. "We're not taking away areas from waterfowl hunters."
To find managed dove fields, see the list on page 56 of the 2006 Minnesota Hunting and Trapping Regulations Handbook.
DNR staff writer