Season opens Monday, but area hunters have reasons to be concerned about prospects

Cool nights and wet weather have hunters nervous heading into Monday's dove season opener.

Some are also fretting about a 26 percent decline in dove call counts, a 17 percent drop in breeding birds and a 16 percent decline in visual counts.

Field conditions are another cause for concern as you'll see in this review of nearby public areas. Unless indicated, hunting hours at state sites are noon to 5 p.m. for the first five days and drawings are at 11 a.m.

Permit sites

As expected, Jim Edgar-Panther Creek (5,304 doves, 6.98 doves per hunter last season) looks promising. Fields are good, and odd days are your best bet for standbys, as there are 152 stakes and only 120 permits those days. There are 134 stakes for even days and 120 permits.

'It was really slow last week, but I think we picked up birds in the past few days,' site manager Mike Wickens said Friday, echoing comments from many.

Matthiessen State Park (2,626, 4.83) has very good, clean sunflower fields and there is usually room for a few standbys.

Green River (2,272, 6.35) has 12 decent fields that are weedier than normal and will allow 140 hunters including some standbys. 'But I'm not seeing as many doves as I usually see,' site staffer Kent Stralow said.

Mackinaw River (3,703, 6.08) follows last year's super showing with a clunker. Of eight fields, two are good, four are average and two are bad. Overall seed heads are small and doves are few and far between.

Another sad story is Lake Shelbyville (5,483, 5.37), where budget cuts slashed sunflower plantings and only 98 hunters will get out.


No permits

Double T (1,566, 3.54) west of Canton has two excellent sunflower fields and two weedy stands of millet. Draw well and you could be in for a good hunt. 'I had a lot of birds coming and going while I was mowing fields,' said site staffer Rick Valois, 'But I've seen a lot more in the past.'

Johnson-Sauk Trail (1,087, 4.31) has a draw one-half hour before sunrise and fields are the best and cleanest in years.

Jubilee College (136, 1.39) has a promising new sunflower field west of Thousand Dollar Road, but only 16 stakes. A drawing will be held opening day.

Sunflowers at Snakeden Hollow (2,806, 7.5) are below normal standards but still fair, says site boss Rick Knisely. There will be 32 stakes.

Fields are good around the 28 stakes at Mautino (939, 4.56) and are much better than last year at the Hennepin Canal (156, 1.28), which has 29 stakes.

Marseilles (150, 1.97) should be better than last year. Fields are decent and there's room for 60 hunters who sign in at Gate 60.

Weeds and budget woes plagued Banner Marsh (1,072, 2.48), which has two sunflower fields and three millet fields instead of the usual five flower plantings. And weeds are everywhere. Drawing for 50 stakes is one hour before sunrise.


Sunflowers went in late at the Buckhorn Unit (570, 2.1) of Siloam Springs, so mowed wheat is the draw, and fields are worse than last year. Better bets in that area are Ray Norbut or Weinberg King, where fields and dove counts are better.

Sign-in hunting is offered at Spoon River State Forest (116, 2.5), which has 5- and 10-acre wheat fields. Limited sign-in hunting is offered at Marshall, Sand Ridge, Sanganois and Argyle Lake.

Anderson Lake has no planting due to flooding.

JEFF LAMPE is Journal Star outdoors columnist. He can be reached at or 686-3212.