Dove hunting is Alabama is a much anticipated past time. Each year about 3.5 million doves are harvested in the state. Many of the doves harvested early in the season are resident birds, with migratory birds comprising much of the late season harvest. Much of the dove population is found near corn, wheat, or peanut fields. Doves prefer to walk and feed on the ground free of dense vegetation, so removal of excess vegetation by burning or light disking may be necessary. Any field where doves are being concentrated for hunting should be at least 5 acres in size.
Management practices that are useful in September may not be practical or legal in January. September and October dove fields are often planted with browntop millet. It is highly preferred by doves and frequently used to attract them during the fall. Browntop millet should be planted in a well-prepared, fertilized seedbed, in rows 36 to 42 inches apart at the rate of 10 to 12 pounds of seed per acre. Broadcasting about 20 pounds of browntop millet per acre also works well. Browntop millet matures in about 60 days. Fields may be cut two weeks prior to hunting season opening or a scheduled dove shoot.
Dove proso millet is another highly preferred grain the doves readily consume. Proso may be planted using the same method as browntop. Proso should be planted at a ratio of 8 to 10 pounds per acre and it matures in about 90 days.
Sunflower is an excellent planting choice for doves. Any variety that produces small to medium sized seeds high in oil content are good choices. In Alabama, Peredovik is the most popular variety. Sunflowers should be planted no later than July 15 because it takes 90 to 100 days for the plants to mature. Plants should be mature two weeks prior to the opening of dove season. Sunflower can be planted in continuous rows spaced 36-42 inches apart. The recommended planting rate is 5 to 7 pounds per acre, spacing plants about 1 foot apart.
Alabama corn fields that have been harvested late summer probably have more late fall and winter dove shooting than all other types of dove fields. For those wishing to provide additional food sources for doves could consider milo, grain sorghum, and peanuts for fall and winter. These plants mature in 90 to 120 days.
Legal dove fields are those that are planted in normal agricultural method. Local Extension offices have publications that explain these practices, which include bush hogging standing corn, wheat, millet, and milo, or planting wheat or other small grain in normal agricultural procedure. Federal regulation require that all small grains used for dove fields be planted in a normal agricultural manner. This means that all broadcast seeds, including wheat, must be covered with soil and not exposed. Illegal practices that are considered baiting doves include top sowing o fall small grains without covering seeds, the use of scratch feed and salt, or returning to the field grain that has been harvested and stored. Manipulation of standing crops for dove hunting by bush hogging, mowing, burning, or partially harvesting a field is allowed as long as the grain has been grown in place and no grain is removed and redistributed on the field. Regulations change often so contact the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources for further clarification.
For permits and additional information contact http://www.dcnr.state.al.us/hunting/season-limits.