Dove hunters at the James A. Reed Memorial Wildlife Area followed tradition when the season opened there Tuesday, a day after the statewide season began.
They shot so many rounds of ammunition that it sounded like a war zone. And birds fell regularly.
By the time the smoke cleared, 389 hunters had taken 3,111 doves — a reminder that the wildlife area outside Lee’s Summit is still one of the best public dove-hunting spots in Missouri.
“That’s as well as we’ve done in years,” said Rick Bredesen, who manages the area for the Missouri Department of Conservation. “We normally have a lot of hunters and a lot of doves taken on opening day.
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“But this year stood out.”
Why? Bredesen credited perfect conditions. First, there was plenty of food and it matured at just the right time. The area has nine sunflower fields and 11 wheatfields that were mowed in advance of the opener. Second, there was no major cold front to send the thin-skinned birds winging south.
Add it up and the table was set for another excellent opener at a public hunting area that typically ranks in the top two or three in the state for season harvest.
The Reed area has history. Records indicate that hunters have been flocking to the area at least since 1961. Data indicate that 168 hunters shot 359 doves in 1961.
Two years later, though, that harvest total increased to 2,500 doves, and the tradition began. By the mid-2000s, the Reed Area reached a record 1,712 hunters who took 7,875 doves.
Can that mark be matched? It’s unlikely. Dove populations and hunter numbers are down from what they once were.
But there’s little doubt that Reed will continue to be one of the state’s dove-hunting jewels.
“Most of our harvest comes in the first two weeks of the season,” Bredesen said. “And national surveys show that it’s that way other places, too.
“But we have a lot to offer here in Missouri. We (the Department of Conservation) manage for doves at a number of our conservation areas that we didn’t before, and they provide great hunting.”
To reach outdoors editor Brent Frazee, call 816-234-4319 or send email to email@example.com.