by Meaghan English, TrueSouth Properties Wildlife Specialist
Now that it is getting nice and steamy in Alabama, it is time to talk about dove season! Although short, dove season is a fun time to get outdoors and spend time with friends and family. Planting for dove season may seem easier than other plantings, but you must strategize. Cover and desirability play a big part in planting for doves (a telephone wire is a nice accessory too). I will discuss three crops, Browntop Millet, Grain Sorghum, fallow field, which provide cover (for hunters) and are desired by doves.
When preparing a dove field, it is important that you have an area that is at least 5 acres in size; dove like large areas with light vegetation where they can walk around and pick seeds and grit. With that being said, browntop millet is a highly desired and highly nutritious seed for mourning dove. It matures very quickly (60-70 days) and is very hardy in the south. It grows to be about 3 feet tall and does well on most soil types. According to a seed manufacturer, the crop will last longer into the season if you stagger plantings by 3 or 4 weeks. The best planting time in the south is May-August. Look up broadcast rates based on the size of your field and your location.
Grain sorghum or “milo” is also a great crop to plant to attract dove, but it is important to make sure you get a cultivar that is not bird resistant! Grain sorghum has many different hybrids and cultivars that attract different game species. “Milo” is much easier to grow than corn, but has a similar function. It provides great protein, but does not require as much water making it very hardy in southern, drought-prone states. This crop produces large seed heads which makes it very palatable to doves. You will have issues with deer destroying this crop before maturity, but that is a risk you take planting fields in general.
Leave it fallow
Leave a part of your field fallow! Mechanical management such as plowing or disking an area of your field will turn up native vegetation that you didn’t know was there. The open area allows dove to light on the ground and search for food without fighting with dense vegetation. Mourning doves are highly attracted to areas where they can peck around at leisure. Don’t worry about weeds that come up in this area; it may be the perfect “dove weed”.
The beauty of dove fields is that there is no rhyme or reason, you just broadcast some seed combinations and watch them grow. As long as you plant desirable food in a large area, you are surely to attract a dove or two. I have heard of some hunters that have even gone as far as placing a baby pool in the middle of a field to provide a water source… I have no idea if it helps or not but if you’re feeling brazen, give it a go. September will be here before you know it, so get busy!
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