Better do your scouting.
In a few words, that sums up the key factor for the dove-hunting opener Tuesday in Missouri and Kansas.
A spring and summer of heavy rain has thrown a variable into the hunting outlook. Some managed areas weren’t able to pull off successful crops of sunflowers, the “candy” that attracts doves by the dozens.
So hunters shouldn’t assume that just because a public hunting area has produced outstanding hunting in the past that it will this year, wildlife officials warn.
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The James A. Reed Memorial Wildlife Area outside of Lee’s Summit is the perfect example. It traditionally offers some of the best public hunting in the state, with hundreds of acres of cut feed fields to attract the birds.
But this year …
“Our food situation is looking poor,” said Rick Bredesen, manager at James A. Reed. “With all the rain we had this spring, we just weren’t able to get into the fields to plant sunflowers.
“We have some wheat fields that were attracting some doves a couple weeks ago, but we’re not seeing them now. We’re not alone. We’ve talked to people at other public areas who struggled to get sunflowers in the ground this year.”
About 60 miles to the northwest from the Reed Area, at the Platte Falls Conservation Area near Platte City, the situation is much different.
There, some sunflowers were planted, matured and were recently mowed, leaving food on the ground that could attract doves.
“The weather made it tough to get sunflowers planted this year, but we were able to get a crop,” said Jeff Miller, resource technician at Platte Falls.
The situation is much the same in Kansas. There, too, conditions are highly variable.
The good news for hunters is that they have plenty of options. Both the Missouri Department of Conservation and the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism manage many smaller areas for doves. Hunters who do some scouting may be able to find a hidden gem that has food and is attracting doves.