FARMINGTON, W.Va. — The thermometer may not reflect it, nor the calendar, but other indicators will tell you fall is here, or at least not far away. College football kicks off this weekend–a sure sign of autumn and in West Virginia hunters will return to the field on Saturday.
The 2018 dove and early Canada goose seasons open across the Mountain State on Saturday. Dove season, by tradition, doesn’t open until noon on the first day. The season for Canada geese will start at daylight.
“I know a lot of people like hunting geese in the morning and then hitting the dove fields in the afternoon,” said Mike Peters biologist for the West Virginia DNR in charge of game birds.
The September season for Canada geese is aimed directly at reducing the number of resident birds in West Virginia. The season started in the early 1990’s with an allowance from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for individual seasons which will allow for more controlled management of goose populations.
“It was to control nuisance goose populations,” said Peters. “It targets those resident geese.”
However, it doesn’t necessarily target the ones which have become a big nuisance. Over abundant numbers on a golf course or city park can cause serious problems, but rarely are there opportunities for those birds to fall into line with the bead of a hunter’s shotgun. Still, wildlife officials still believe the season is helpful in controlling goose numbers.
Doves are a different story. Also a migratory bird, a lot of doves live in West Virginia as well. In fact, the Division of Natural Resources creates fields specifically to attract doves and other grain feeders on several wildlife management areas.
“Pleasant Creek and Pruntytown and also Greenbottom and McClintic and down at Bluestone, and up at Hillcrest WMA in Hancock County,” explained Peters. “A lot of our wildlife management areas do put in some kind of dove fields.”
Those areas tend to draw a lot of pressure the first day or so, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing according to Peters.
“It’s opposite of what you would think with other hunting,” he said. “The more hunters out there the more it keeps those birds moving around.”
Private land can also be a winner. Agriculture fields and cut over corn or hay fields can also be attractive spots for doves or geese alike.
“Dove populations are pretty steady,” said Peters. “We’ve had a slight uptick in numbers since last year. I figure hunters can expect it will be about the same as last year depending on the weather.”
Hunters are reminded of the regulations, for both species hunters need the federal HIP card and will need a plug in a semi-automatic or pump shotgun limiting the magazine to a capacity of three shells. Those after geese need a federal waterfowl stamp and must hunt with non-toxic shot.
The dove season always opens on September 1st, with the opening day falling on a Saturday, Peters expected an even higher participation rate than usual.