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Tips & Tricks for Dove Field Management

Every September, hunters flock to Indiana’s public lands seeking the thrill and challenge of dove hunting over managed sunflower fields. Although you may travel far to bag birds, you may be able create quality dove hunting in your own backyard. If you have the time and the space, managing a crop for doves may be well worth your effort.

Black-oil sunflowers are the most popular crop for dove hunting. They grow readily in Indiana’s climate and produce ample seed. A good site for growing sunflowers will have moderate to well-drained soils and plenty of sunlight.

Depending on variety, sunflowers take around 110 days to mature. That means you will want to plant around mid-May to be ready for the Sept. 1 season opener. Pay close attention to soil moisture and the weather forecast when planting. Too much rain means your flowers either won’t grow or will be stunted and seedless.

Weather isn’t the only factor when protecting your crop. Deer are particularly fond of sunflowers, so consider planting at least one acre in areas where you know deer will be feeding heavily.

Doves are short-statured and feed on the ground, which means they need seeds that are easy to find. Make sure there is plenty of bare dirt under and around your flowers to encourage feeding. Harvested doves can also be hard to find in tall cover, so consider mowing areas around your crops, which will make it easier to locate and retrieve your hard-earned harvest.

For more tips and tricks for growing sunflowers on your property, consider contacting your district wildlife biologist for advice specific to your area (DNR Wildlife Biologists).