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Be Safe And Legal During Dove Shoots
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Enthusiastic dove hunters should not let the excitement of the first major fall hunting season cloud their judgement for a safe and legal hunt.
Dove shoots traditionally trigger the beginning of the fall hunting season.
Mississippi is divided into two hunting regions with three different dove seasons each. Dove season will be legal in the northern portion of the state from Sept. 6 through 27, from Oct. 11 through Nov. 9 and again from Dec. 27 until Jan. 3.
The seasons in South Mississippi begin Sept. 20 until Oct. 11, Nov. 15 through 30 and from Dec. 20 until Jan. 10. The daily bag limit for both regions is 15 doves.
Jerry Roberts of Tupelo, a conservation officer with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, said safety should be every hunter's primary concern.
"Know who you are hunting with. That means knowing they are experienced, careful and ethical," Roberts said.
Roberts said opening day can take on too much of a social atmosphere if hunters let their guard down and use poor judgement.
"It's easy to tell if hunters have been drinking alcohol when you walk up to a field. They talk louder, take wilder shots and are playing more than hunting," Roberts said. "Alcohol and guns just don't mix. Fortunately, most hunters know that.
"If a hunter goes to a dove shoot and has any question about the judgement of the hunters, it's better to walk away and hunt somewhere else. And that includes if you think the field has been baited," he said.
Dean Stewart, extension wildlife specialist at Mississippi State University, said hunters must be careful not to hunt doves over a baited field.
"Basically, pastures or fields must be in use within normal agricultural practices, such as a recently harvested corn field or a recently planted (and tilled) wheat field," Stewart said. "People can't just broadcast or pile seed on the ground to attract birds."
Stewart said extension county agents can provide information on what actions would be considered normal agricultural practices.
Observing bag limits also is important. Stewart recommended hunters keep their birds with them at all times or set them aside in a bag or hunting vest in a place marked with the hunter's name.
Roberts said a conservation officer's goal is protect people and wildlife, not to write tickets.
Roberts offered some other basic safety tips to help hunters enjoy an accident-free season.
- Check a firearm every time it is picked up to make sure it is unloaded.
- Never transport a loaded weapon. Double check guns before riding a four-wheeler, going through a fence or entering a vehicle.
- Keep guns pointed in a safe direction.
- Know the range of your gun.
- Know the location of other hunters.
- Do not shoot low-flying birds.
- Make sure young hunters understand safety rules and are well supervised.
"Dove season can be very enjoyable if hunters use good judgement to avoid an accident or a violation," Roberts said.