The temperatures may not say "fall" on Sept. 1, but the opening day of dove season is the unofficial indicator that summer is ending.
"It's sort of the big kickoff to hunting season for most of the state. Obviously deer season is a big thing in the Lowcountry when it begins in August but for a lot of folks dove season is the first taste of hunting they get," said Michael W. Hook, the Small Game Program Coordinator for the S.C. Department of Natural Resources.
"Dove season is a big social event in South Carolina. When you think about the big opening day dove hunt, you get together with 50 or 60 friends, have a barbecue, shoot some doves and you watch football. It's sort of the kickoff to fall.
"There are a lot of folks who dove hunt in South Carolina. They may only do it two or three times a year, but it's pretty significant in South Carolina. Everyone can do it. It's for the young. It's for the old. It's for everybody. And you don't have to be a good shot to enjoy a dove hunt."
South Carolina has a three-part dove season. The opening segment is Sept. 1 through Oct. 13 (you can only hunt from noon until sunset Sept. 1-3). The other segments are Nov. 10-24 and Dec. 15-Jan. 15. The daily bag limit is 15 birds and the possession limit is 45. And remember that a free Migratory Bird Permit is required. For complete regulations and a list of public dove fields, visit dnr.sc.gov.
Hook said he expects a "pretty decent year" for dove hunters.
"We do a preseason summer survey and it's indicating that we have more breeding pairs this year than we had the last two years. Not by much, but there's a little increase," Hook said.
"Every year we band 1,500 to 2,000 doves across the state and it looks like a pretty good year there. Some of our efforts were hampered along the coast with all the rain. It's hard to keep bait in place when it rains every day. But anecdotally, looking through the bands as they've been coming in, it seems we have a good many young birds and that usually bodes well.
"We should have had a good hatch tis year. If you think back to February, it was warm in February and the doves probably started taking advantage of that and it should have been a good year for doves. It's been good weather and it seems we've gotten a good hatch."
Many dove hunters belong to private clubs, but South Carolina maintains approximately 50 public dove fields in the Wildlife Management Area program.
Public youth hunts are available as follows:
• Bonneau Ferry WMA Youth Only Dove Field, Highway 402, Cordesville; Sept. 1, 8, 22, call 843-825-3387.
• Botany Bay Plantation WMA, Edisto Island, Sept. 1, 8, Oct. 13, Nov. 10, call 843-869-2713.
• Santee Cooper WMA Public Dove Field, Eutawville, Sept. 1, call 803-609-7011.
Area public dove fields include:
• Canal WMA Dove Field, St. Stephen, Sept. 1, 8, Oct. 13, Nov. 17, (Sept. 22 is Wounded Warrior Hunt only, invitation only, contact firstname.lastname@example.org), call 843-825-3387.
• Donnelley WMA Dove Field, Green Pond, Sept. 1, 8, Oct. 6, Nov. 10, call 843-844-8957.
• Oak Lea WMA Dove Field, Pinewood, Sept. 1, 8, 12, 22, 26, Jan. 2, Jan. 9. Call 803-609-7011.
• Samworth WMA Dove Field, Georgetown, Sept. 1, 8, 22, Oct. 6, Nov. 17, Dec. 16, call 843-546-8119.
• Santee Cooper WMA Public Dove Field, Eutawville, Sept. 1 (YOUTH ONLY), Sept. 8, 29, Nov. 17, Dec. 29, call 803-609-7011.
• Santee Dam WMA Dove Field, Manning, Sept. 1, 8, 29, Nov. 24, Dec. 29, call 803-609-7011.
• Webb Center WMA Dove Field, Garnett, Sept. 1, 8, 29, Oct. 13, Nov. 17, call 843-625-3569.
Charleston Harbor Tarpon Tournament
Capt. John Irwin and angler Clay Smith released a tarpon to win the 24th annual Charleston Harbor Tarpon Tournament. The second was caught by Denis Peper with Capt. J.R. Waits and the third by Barkley McCurdy with Capt. Mike. Sixty anglers participated in the tournament.