Planting Dove Fields

Karen Cambre, Sharpe, Kenneth W.  |  6/4/2018 4:44:09 PM

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News article for June 4, 2018

You can always count on a cool snap in May, but June gives us no hope. The heat is on and we are a long way from a reprieve.

June does give a hint of hope to hunters who are anxious for impending hunting seasons. While September’s dove season may seem far off, it is not too early to start planting dove fields.

There are lots of doves that are migratory and we also have resident populations. Even those doves that live here year round will travel up to 12 miles to feed. They are highly attracted to brown top millet and smaller seeded sunflowers, but the problem is getting them to stay. Doves are notorious for feeding several days in one field and then abruptly leaving even without hunting pressure. Changing weather plays a role as new fronts arrive.

I used to hear a lot of hunters say that they planted dove fields on July 4th but, that does not give you enough time to be ready for the opening day hunt. After not being able to hunt for months, most hunters are interested in being involved at their first opportunity.

For the coming opening day of dove season I would plant brown top millet. Sunflowers can be used, but they take about 100 days from planting until they are ready for harvest. That would make a mid-June planted crop ready to cut around the 1st of October.

Brown top millet however is ready for harvest in about 60 days and a mid-June planting will be ready to cut about mid-August. I would consider that to be just barely enough time for opening day.

Plow the field before planting so you can get seed contact with the soil. Broadcast seed at a rate of 25-30 pounds per acre. If you did not get a soil test, use a general fertilizer recommendation rate of 300 pounds of 13-13-13 fertilizer per acre at planting. If you have a harrow or roller, use it to cover the seed lightly. This cuts down on birds eating your seed and helps seed germinate faster.

Doves have short legs and do not like to feed in thatch or eat while perched on standing plants. They like a clean field that is full of seed to eat. That is what makes hay fields ideal places to hunt doves.

For your dove fields, the best method of harvest is to cut the millet for hay. Millet makes excellent livestock feed. If you do not have hay equipment, see if you can get a local livestock producer interested in baling your millet and give the farmer the hay. Fluffing and raking the hay will scatter seed all over the field and then after baling, the ground is covered with seed and that is very attractive to doves. Another method may be to mow the millet and then burn the field to remove thatch, but be careful to observe all regulations related to controlled burns.

Work backward to establish a planting date. Remember, it takes 60 days to grow millet to maturity (good seed formation). If it is not raining and weather allows, you can cut, bale and remove the hay within a week. You need another week or 2 for doves to find the field and start feeding. This is somewhere around 75-80 days before you are ready to hunt.

This all adds up to planting brown top millet as soon as possible if your interest is in being ready for opening day. You can stagger plantings and stagger cutting dates to prolong the availability of millet seed in your field.

I will caution you that armyworms find well-fertilized millet as appetizing as doves. Armyworms however will eat the standing foliage and can devour it in a few days if left untreated. Keep a watchful eye out and be ready to spray if necessary.

For more information on these or related topics contact Kenny at 225-686-3020 or visit our website at www.lsuagcenter.com/livingston.

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