By Richard Hines
“I wish you two would get out there and shoot some of those collared doves!” One of the landowners whose land we hunt on each year in Kansas had asked us to try and get some of the doves that had been roosting around his feedlot and storage bins.
I told him we would be more than happy to oblige him, and I did get some questions from some of the other guys in our hunting party, “Is it legal?” Absolutely, the Eurasian Collared Dove has recently been listed as an unprotected exotic bird. Best of all, it is a dove and you can cook them!
We had arrived in Kansas, the day before the opener of pheasant season, gotten checked into our motel and we had some extra time on our hands. Luckily, I had already gotten word about this mission and had thrown in several boxes of dove loads for the occasion.
Unfortunately, the list of exotic wildlife continues to expand across the United States. In the 1960s, starlings and house sparrows were the problem. As a kid, along with my trusty Daisy Model 25 BB gun, I was given the job of keeping these birds under control around our barns and storage buildings. Both starlings and house sparrows would defecate around feed areas creating some serious health problems that were detrimental to small dairy operations.
Turn the clock to 2020 and we have another exotic, the Eurasian Collared Dove. Many folks are still questioning if the collared dove is going to be a serious problem. Many say it does not appear to be, but anytime an exotic species is introduced into new habitat, there are potential problems, mainly to our native doves.
Right now, the collared dove seems to be associated with structures, houses, barns, and like our friend in Kansas, many farmers are starting to have problems around livestock feeding areas.
Knowing what I do about the history of exotic wildlife in North America, no protection is the best option for this species.
At this point, the birds appear to be spreading into all available habitat which is why every state wildlife agency has or is considering removing protection which means collared doves can be shot at any time. Some states such as Kentucky require that if you are hunting doves (mourning doves), once you reach your limit of morning doves, you can no longer hunt collared doves. I reviewed several states, and this is similar plus all states require that you obtain a hunting license.
The original range of the Eurasian Collared Dove was across the European continent and Japan. Early in the 1900s, the species began expanding across much of Europe, reaching the British Isles by the 1950s. Someone introduced collared doves into the Bahamas in the 1970s and I saw my first collared dove in Florida around 1985. Currently this species is found from the Atlantic Coast to the Pacific Coast.
If you want to hunt collared doves, obviously the first thing is obtaining a hunting license, check state regulations in your state and obtain permission to hunt private property.
Once you have found a good location, set up along flyways for pass shooting or adjacent to shelter belts with evergreen trees where they typically prefer to roost. Eurasian Collared Doves feed on the ground like other doves so look for bare open areas where they can drop in to pick up seeds.
Shooting collared doves is best with #7 ½ or # 8 shot. I have used both modified and improved choke tubes. Which choke you choose depends on the type of shooting you are doing, pass shooting verses shooting around feeding areas.
In many cases, collared doves will congregate around cattle operations so talk to the farmer about how close you should be to the livestock. Make sure he is comfortable with where you are shooting and once you start shooting, watch the cattle. In many cases, cattle will not mind shooting but if they appear agitated or nervous, move further away.
You can tell native doves from the Eurasian Collared Dove by looking for a black slash across the back of their necks. If you are hunting both species, leave birds intact while transporting them home. If you clean birds in the field, leave one wing on so they can be identified by a wildlife officer if you are checked during transportation.
Best of all, since Eurasian Collared Doves are another species of dove, they are edible! In fact, I cannot really tell any difference between the two. Use your normal dove recipes or the old standby, breast wrapped in bacon and jalapeno on the grill. Do not overcook on the grill as the meat will be better if cooked medium. Check out some of the Dove Recipes on GAW.
Taking a few of these exotic doves this year will add some meat to the freezer, not to mention reducing competition to our native doves as well as helping landowners with nuisance wildlife.