After a long, hot summer, the first week of September means only one thing to millions of sportsmen around the country: sitting on your favorite sunflower field or waterhole, blasting away at doves with friends and family members. And whether you’re a dead-on wingshot or a duffer when it comes to a 12 gauge and those darting and diving demons, it matters not, because it’s just so darned much fun!
Opening day (September 1) of the 2011 mourning dove hunting season will be as historic as it is memorable for hunters in Iowa this year, as it marks the first time in 93 years a hunt has been permitted there. The last time folks in the Hawkeye State had the opportunity to hunt the challenging (and tasty) mourning dove was 1918, the last year the Boston Red Sox won the World Series in the 20th century—with Babe Ruth pitching a complete-game shutout in game one.
Thanks in no small part to the diligence and hard work of sportsmen and lawmakers alike, on April 13, the Iowa Natural Resource Commission voted 5-2 to officially establish the state’s first-ever hunting season for mourning doves, slated to begin Sept. 1, 2011, and run for 70 days. Within mere hours of it reaching his desk, Gov. Terry Branstad placed his signature on the historic bill, quite unlike his predecessor, governor (and present U.S. Department of Agriculture secretary) Tom Vilsack, who vetoed a similar law in 2001.
Then, in July, action by the Iowa Natural Resource Commission (NRC) threatened to disrupt the hunt and deflate the euphoria when commissioners blindsided sportsmen by approving an arbitrary ban on the use of traditional ammunition for hunting doves. The same ban had been overwhelmingly defeated in the Iowa legislature earlier in the year during deliberations on the new dove season, and the commission’s actions were viewed as an attempt to usurp the Iowa legislature by imposing the rule.
In quick retaliation, the Iowa General Assembly Administrative Rules Review Committee voted 9-1 in August to delay the implementation of the NRC rule regarding shot restrictions. As a result of the vote, the legislature will have the option of acting during the next legislative session to remove the ban from the final dove rule or permit the ban to stand with no further discussion.
So beginning this week, Iowa hunters will be able to head afield in their home state for the first time, hoping to harvest a limit of the main ingredients for a savory meal of grilled, bacon-wrapped dove breasts.
We wish them—and dove hunters everywhere—the best of luck, and leave you all with some sage wingshooting advice from one of our favorite shooting writers, the late Charley Waterman:
“Since it’s often possible to see doves coming for a considerable distance, there’s a temptation to track them with the barrel long before you shoot—but it is unnecessary to kill a dove more than once, and the longer you point at him the more ways you figure to miss him.”
- From “Complete Dove Coverage” Field Days, 1995