SOCIAL CIRCLE — Gather friends and family and get ready to head to the dove fields for the opening day of dove season.

The Georgia dove hunting season opens at noon on Sept. 3.

“Hunting for doves brings a lot of joy to families that are anxious to kick off the fall hunting season,” John W. Bowers, chief of game management. “Georgia has a great choice of fields to choose from with approximately 40 state public dove fields, plus opportunities on private land available to the public through a U.S. Department of Agriculture program called the Voluntary Public Access/­Habitat Incentive Program.”

The official 2016-17 dove seasons are Sept. 3-18, Oct. 8-28 and Nov. 24 through Jan. 15. Shooting hours are noon until sunset on opening day (Sept. 3) and one-half hour before sunrise to sunset for the remainder of the season dates. Sunrise and sunset times are available on the Outdoors GA app (available free on iTunes or in the Google Play store) or at aa.usno.navy.mil.

Many WMA public dove fields are reserved solely for quota hunts on opening day, so be sure to review dove hunting rules and regulations to ensure the availability of the field you plan to visit.

Want to know what a field is expected to look like before you head that way to hunt? You are in luck! Each year, WRD biologists and technicians prepare a dove field forecast for wildlife management areas and some additional fields identifying available crops and anticipating the conditions for opening day. This forecast is available at georgiawildlife.com/DoveForecast.

Regulations quick review: The daily bag limit is 15 doves per hunter. Collared doves may be taken, but do not affect the count of your daily limit. Any autoloading or other repeating shotgun must be plugged to hold no more than three shotshells while hunting doves. And, as always, hunters must obtain permission from landowners before hunting on private property.

Dove hunters 16 years of age and older must possess a Georgia hunting license and a free Migratory Bird Harvest Information Program Permit. HIP provides biologists with needed information to ensure conservation of migratory bird populations while providing quality hunting opportunities.

When hunting on a Wildlife Management Agency, you also must possess a WMA license. Hunters may purchase licenses online at georgiawildlife.com/licenses-permits-passes, by phone at 800-366-2661 or at license vendor locations. (A list of vendors available online).

Updated and accurate harvest rate estimates facilitate the successful management of doves. In 2003, the U.S. Geological Survey, Biological Research Division and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in cooperation with several states including Georgia, initiated an ongoing dove banding project. Hunters can participate in this conservation effort by examining harvested doves for leg bands and reporting band numbers to the USFWS at reportband.gov or by calling 1-800-327-BAND.

For more information, visit georgiawildlife.com/hunting/regulations.

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