Dove hunters oppose altering season

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Georgia plans to alter its fall and winter mourning dove seasons for 2008-09, and some local hunters aren't happy with losing six days from the earliest part of the season.

"There is currently a proposal to change the dove season by taking six days from September and one day from October and placing those days at the end of the dove season so that the season will close on Jan. 15, which is the latest day allowed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service," said John Bowers, Georgia's assistant chief of game management.

The proposal, which Bowers said was recommended through surveys with 790 dove hunters, would change the current season -- opening the first Saturday in September and 14 days thereafter -- to a new season with the same opening date, but it would close eight days thereafter.

The rationale, Bowers said, is to provide more hunting opportunities late in the season and allow modification of the October season to coincide with crop harvests.

Hap Harris, president of Devereaux Hunting Club near Augusta, said his members oppose the changes, especially the portion that involves losing part of the September season.

Younger hunters, he wrote in a letter to Bowers, prefer warmer weather for dove hunting, and later dove seasons might interfere with members' other pastimes, such as deer hunting.

He also noted the cost of dove field preparation has skyrocketed in recent years.

"From a selfish point of view, the cost of preparing a dove field, which would be used only twice before Thanksgiving is cost prohibitive," Bowers wrote.

"The dove fields we prepare are for our resident doves, which are harvested mainly in the first season. When you speak of the second season doves, you are talking about the migratory birds; having them at your field when you want them is a complete gamble. In the end you are asking hunters to pay more for the opportunity to harvest fewer birds."

The complete details on the proposed changes and a survey where hunters can offer opinions on the changes are available online at www.gohuntgeorgia.com.

Reach Rob Pavey at 868-1222, ext. 119 or rob.pavey@augustachronicle.com.

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