30,000 hunters expected to participate in mourning dove season - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

30,000 hunters expected to participate in Iowa mourning dove season

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JOHNSON COUNTY (KWWL) -

This weekend marks the start of Iowa's second mourning dove season. More than 30,000 hunters are expected to hit the fields over the next few days.

When Iowa legalized mourning dove hunting last year, Doug Nellons didn't think much of it -- he's more of a duck and deer kind of guy. His friends, on the other hand, went out a few times, "and they loved it," he said.

This year, they camped out overnight in their trucks, and hit the field before sunrise. Nellons said, the experience was exhilarating.

"When you get a group of 15 or 20 coming at you, it's hard to pick a target!" said Nellons.

Iowa Department of Natural Resources spokesperson Joe Wilkinson explains, dove hunting has been a controversial topic for at least three decades.

The Federal Government classified the mourning dove as a game bird in 1918, but it was just last year that Iowa approved its hunt. Since then, Wilkinson says the controversy has died down.

"That's where we're at in the second year. Hunters are learning a little more about it and the folks that manage the wildlife areas for doves are learning a little big too," said Wilkinson.

The Iowa DNR is counting on the mourning dove to bring new, or retired hunters back into the sport.

"Really, all you need is a bucket to sit on, some camouflage clothes, and a shot gun loaded with the right shot and you can walk in a half mile, quarter mile. It's kind of, you sit, and the doves come to you. So that's really attractive to older hunters, it's attractive to taking younger hunters in. They don't have to walk very far and once they're there, there's a lot of action. Even if they're not shooting, you're seeing doves all morning long," said Wilkinson.

With thousands of hunters hitting public hunting grounds in Iowa this weekend. With limited fields conducive to mourning dove hunting, it can create a dangerous situation. Nellons found that out early on, when another party began shooting right over his head.

"If you see a bunch of vehicles that are already here, find out where the other hunters are. We weren't hidden, but they were shooting, literally, 50 yards behind us," said Nellons.

DNR workers urge hunters to be safe through the season, and they're hoping a successful summer will lead to increased interest in fall and winter seasons.

"A lot of the mourning dove hunters we hope will hang on and go after pheasants when we get into pheasant season. Because we've seen an upturn in the pheasant population this year after four, five years of downturn," said Wilkinson.

The Iowa DNR allows mourning dove hunters to use lead shot -- provided they're not hunting in areas designated as non-toxic shot only. But they encourage the use of steel shot, which is less impactful on the environment.

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