(Statewide) — Shotgun blasts will echo of the hills of West Virginia this weekend as the first of the Mountain State hunting seasons opens up.
The mourning dove season represents the first of the fall hunting seasons in West Virginia and for many serves as an escape to get into the field and burn some powder.
Whether hunters have much to shoot remains to be seen.
"We don’t have very many doves right now, there’s a few but not very many at all. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing." Said DNR District Game Biologist Tom Dotson at the DNR’s Point Pleasant office. "If they show up two weeks before the season comes in you can bet your bottom dollar they won’t be here when the season comes in."
Dotson oversees the Greenbottom and McClintock Wildlife Management Areas along the Ohio River. Those two areas are among the few that are managed largely for the attraction of doves.
"The tractors have been going for a week and a half now. Disking and cutting buckwheat and winter wheat. The plantings that we’re doing now and cutting a lot of foxtail and German millet and at Greenbottom they’ve got some sunflowers and we’re going to chop around the edges of the corn."
Farm crops are planted as a wildlife attraction area. Both areas are extremely popular with hunters on the opening day.
Doves are migratory in nature, but unlike other migratory birds, they aren’t necessarily flying south for the winter, they’re flying south to find the most abundant food sources.
"I haven’t seen anyplace up and down the valley that’s chopping corn." Dotson said. "Corn got a real late start because of the dry weather. That might make us the only dinner table in town."
Most of the birds hunters will be shooting on opening weekend will be local birds. Later in the year, more of the birds that were hatched in the northern provinces of Canada will arrive. Dotson says unfortunately most hunters fail to take advantage of those birds because other, more popular, hunting seasons have opened and compete for time.
The dove season opens at noon on the first day, and the remainder of the season allows shooting to begin a half hour before sunrise like all other seasons.