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Doves Start Hunting Seasons With A Bang
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Many of Mississippi's outdoor sportsmen and women count down the days until dove season arrives, but their judgement skills may need polishing more than their firearms as they begin the first of several major hunting seasons in the state.
Labor Day weekend dove shoots traditionally trigger the beginning of the fall hunting season. These shoots often take on a party atmosphere and can have deadly results for more than the birds.
"A successful hunt begins with good judgement. Hunters need to judge the conditions first," said Dean Stewart, wildlife specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service. "If you go somewhere to hunt and the situation doesn't look safe, find another place or time to hunt."
Stewart said ice chests and plenty of beverages should be available to prevent dehydration, but alcohol and guns do not mix. If other hunters are under the influence of alcohol, they are not safe to be around.
"A safe dove field should allow plenty of space for hunters to spread apart. They should avoid shooting at low-flying birds," Stewart said.
If a hunter doubts the character or abilities of the other participants, it is better to walk away. That includes avoiding illegal, baited fields.
T.J. Jennings, chief of law enforcement with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, said hunters need to check the land first and make sure any grain is broadcast evenly in a normal agricultural practice.
"Laws concerning field conditions, bag limits and season dates are part of the effort to ensure plenty of wildlife for future generations to enjoy," Jennings said. "Conservation officers work to protect people and wildlife for future hunting seasons."
Other pre-hunt responsibilities include purchasing a hunting license and making sure the gun is plugged and not capable of holding more than three shells for hunting migratory birds.
Jennings said a new law going into effect this year requires that young hunters ages 12 to 15 complete a hunter education course before hunting. Those under 12 must hunt in the vicinity of an adult (age 21 and older) who will provide supervision.
"This new law is designed to save lives, much like the existing hunter education requirements," Jennings said. "Anyone 16 or older must purchase a license, and those born on or after Jan. 1, 1972 must complete a hunter education course before receiving a license."
Some basic safety issues covered in hunter education classes include cleaning and maintaining firearms, keeping firearms unloaded en route to the hunt and using caution when carrying a firearm and crossing obstacles such as fences or ditches.
Stewart said dove season is a good opportunity for introducing young people to hunting as a sport. In addition to the hunter education program, young people can improve the skills needed for sports hunting through Mississippi's 4-H Field and Stream program.
"Shooting is the second most popular international sport behind track and field," Stewart said. "One out of five Americans hunt and nearly half of all Americans fish. Shooting, hunting and fishing are all lifetime sports."