Monday, April 2, 2012

Dove Food Plots

Over the past 20 years, hunting of the mourning dove has become an extremely popular sport in Indiana.  Today the dove is the most hunted migratory game bird in the state.  To harvest them, many hunters simply hide out near a local water source, some near harvested fields, or others at a recently-cut corn silage field.  But there is a segment of the dove hunting community that takes the sport to another level, choosing to plant and manage fields specifically for the purpose of harvesting doves over them.  With a little planning, a small investment can turn into the best dove hunt you've ever experienced.

WHAT TO PLANT- Sorghum, millets, wheat, oats, corn and others have all been used with varying levels of success.  Most dove field managers, however, choose the sunflower as their primary option for dove field planting.  Part of the decision for what to plant is dependent on other factors, including soil type, expected weed competition, anticipated planting date, and more.  But when multiple food sources are available, sunflower fields normally out-draw all others.

WHEN TO PLANT- Dove season in Indiana opens on September 1, annually.  to have sunflowers mature enough for manipulation in mid-August, planting in late-April or early-May is best.  For species requiring fewer days to maturity, like millet, planting in June is possible.  Wheat, if chosen, is normally fall-planted, while oats are spring-planted.

WHERE TO PLANT- Fields as small as 2-3 acres can be used to consistently draw large numbers of doves, especially if located in key flight areas.  Small fields, however, have a tendency to limit shooting opportunities, both in terms of safe hunter density and proximity to adjacent properties.  Locating dove fields near a known dove roost or loafing site is beneficial.  Doves tend to fly significant distances between food and water sources, so planting food plots adjacent to water, while potentially useful, isn't required for overall hunting success.  Soils should be suited to the crop being planted, with appropriate soil moisture, as for most crops, being key.  Need for reliable access for tilling, fertilizing, planting, weed control, and food source manipulation should be considered as well.

HOW TO PLANT- Dove food plots can be installed using a multitude of tillage/planting techniques.  Pre-plant burn down of existing vegetation is recommended, using a non-specific herbicide such as Roundup.  Seeds may be broadcast or planted into prepared seed beds, or no-till drilled into existing cover.  Fertilization and pH management, based on soil test recommendations, is preferred.  Annual weed competition in food plots can actually augment food availability to doves, so extensive post-emergence weed control is often unnecessary.

SEED MANIPULATION-  Regardless of the crop that is chosen, or location of the field, manipulation of the food source is key to hunting success.  Doves feed from the ground, and prefer a "clean" field in which to forage, avoiding even heavy seed sources when ground depris is dense.  Where sunflowers are concerned, shattering the seed head is key, making simple bushhog-type choppers (which normally only chop the stalk) less than optimal.  Forage choppers of flail mowers often do the best job, separating large volumes of seed from the seed head.  Regardless, putting as much seed on as bare a soil as possible is the goal, regardless of the crop.

This information has been provided by the Purdue Extension, from the Dove Food Plot Bulletin.

At Prairie's Edge, we carry a variety of options for all of your Food Plot needs.  We are also equipped to do the project for you, whether you don't have the time or the equipment, we can fill in where you are not able to.  Give us a call or stop in for a quote on your next project...

Prairie's Edge
919 N. McKinley Avenue in Rensselaer

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