It’s that time of year again as dove season openers will sweep across America and hunters, along with their friends and families, will gather around farm fields and openings everywhere to hunt one of North America’s most populous game birds. Millions of shotshells will be fired and the resulting cookouts of dove breasts via secret recipes are sure to excite hunters—and non-hunters—alike.
There’s good news as the dove season approaches.
First, dove populations are steady across America. The North American dove population is estimated to be 400 million-plus strong with hunters shooting an estimated 20 to 40 million doves each hunting season. Forty-one states now hold dove hunting seasons each fall. The states without dove hunting seasons are found mostly in America’s northeast tip. The unfortunate news is that the closed states include: Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Vermont and Alaska.
Better news is that hunting is a safe pursuit. Statistically, hunting is safer than high school football, doing home chores involving ladders and playing volleyball. According to a National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) report, a person is 25 times more likely to be hurt riding a bicycle than while hunting with a firearm.
The best news is that hunting participation is also increasing. In a recent report prepared for the NSSF by Southwick and Associates, the data estimated that 21.8 million Americans hunted at least once during the past five years. Many factors kept hunters from going hunting every year, but the one thing that seems to encourage hunters to hunt is an invitation by someone to join them in the field.
Great aids to inviting someone to join you on a future dove, deer or any hunt can be found at: http://www.nssf.org/hunting/invite/ . Another just released U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report shows that hunter numbers have increased 9 percent between 2006 and 2011.
As the opening day of dove hunting season approaches in many states, there’s one other great reason why this could be the best year ever to invite a new hunter to give the sport a try. Thanks to programs like Families Afield, the once perceived barrier of having to complete a hunter education course before going hunting for the first time has been eliminated in many states in favor of apprentice or mentored hunting licenses. These licenses allow newcomers to hunt under the watchful eye of an experienced mentor. Check your state’s hunting regulations for more details.
With plentiful birds, easy to obtain hunting licenses, and hunting as a safe pastime, the only thing standing between you and a great day in a dove field is taking the time to do it. Try it this fall and I’ll bet you’ll be hooked for a lifetime.
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