FARMINGTON, W.Va. — The first of the fall hunting seasons of 2019 open this weekend across West Virginia. Among those will be the mourning dove season.

“Traditionally the first day of dove season is September 1st, but since September 1st this year falls on a Sunday, it would have to be the following Monday, so this year September 2nd will be the first day of the season,” said Mike Peters, Leader of the Game Bird and Small Game Project for West Virginia.

Hunters can anticipate a healthy number of birds for an afternoon of activity. It will have to be afternoon activity on the first day since the season, by tradition, opens at noon on opening day. Throughout the year, wildlife biologists in West Virginia and other states band doves to track their movement. Anybody killing a dove with a band is asked to report the information to the number on the band. Although we see doves year around in West Virginia they are a migratory species.

“The biggest thing I found out with banding birds is a whole lot of them we band don’t get harvested,” Peters said. “We find out our populations are pretty steady with doves.”

Part of the reason doves do so well is a combination of a lot of food and not a lot of hunting pressure. Typically hunters will hunt the opening day of the season or maybe the second day, but after that move on to other things.

“After that interest really dwindles and that’s unfortunate because like we said the doves are migratory and they’re here well into the winter,” said Peters.

The best place to set up on a dove hunt is along the edge of a freshly mowed or harvested grain field. Concealment is a consideration, but not overly important. Peters also suggested finding a nearby water source and standing dead tree as a roosting point to encourage dove activity. The Wildlife Management Areas in West Virginia often offer the perfect set up.

“A lot of our managers put in dove fields. They plant fields in wheat or millet and they put in a lot of work to cultivate them. Just before the season opens they’ll cut them or in some cases burn them all in preparation for opening day,” he said.

One advantage when hunting doves is company. Although many WMA’s will be crowded, it’s actually an advantage to keep doves moving around the fields during the afternoon.

Hunters are reminded since the doves are migratory, you’ll need a plug in your shotgun. Hunters must also have the H.I.P card, available at license retailers or DNR offices across the state, to hunt doves.