Migratory bird hunters have more to be excited about than the recent release of “Fish and Wildlife Management: A Handbook for Mississippi Landowners.” Nearly three whole weeks have been added to the dove-hunting season, and a record number of waterfowl are expected to overwinter in Mississippi this year.
Dove hunters will enjoy more shooting time this year after officials added 20 days to the hunting season. This year Mississippi hunters will enjoy a 90-day, 15-bird daily bag limit for mourning and white-winged doves. The possession limit is 45 birds.
Hunters may also take the invasive Eurasian collared-dove. Collareds may only be taken during the hunting season, but there is no bag limit.
Mississippi is divided into two zones to maximize hunting opportunities throughout the state. The North Dove Zone is defined as areas north of U.S. Highway 84 plus areas south of U.S. Highway 84 and west of Mississippi Highway 35.
Season dates for the North Zone are Sept. 1-21; Oct. 4-Nov. 9; and Dec. 15- Jan. 15, 2015. Season dates for dove in the South Zones are Sept. 13-21; Oct. 4-Nov. 9; and Dec. 3-Jan. 15, 2015.
Waterfowl survey: State officials began this year on a sour note, though the news since then has all been positive.
The 2014 late January aerial waterfowl survey was cut short when the survey plane, ironically, collided with a bird. The plane could not be repaired in time to conduct the survey during the scheduled times, forcing its cancellation.
However, prior to the accident officials reported the largest waterfowl abundance on record for both December and early January since 2002.
Their observations were backed by the Mississippi Flyway Council, which is reporting more good news for this season. Just last month, the Council released a fall flight forecast of 49.2 million birds — an 8 percent growth in population from last year and 43 percent higher than the long-term average for North American waterfowl.
During the 2013 season, Mississippi hunters harvested approximately 3.12 birds per day and had a seasonal harvest rate of 20 birds per hunter, totaling roughly 300,000 ducks.
For the upcoming 2014 season, individual species numbers are promising, according to the Council. Mallards, redheads, Northern shovelers, green-winged teal, blue-winged teal, gadwalls, American wigeons and canvasback ducks all show increases in population estimates above the long-term average. American black duck, scaup and pintail populations are all steady but are still below the long-term average population.