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Published: Friday, Oct. 26, 2012 11:48 a.m. CDT

Think safety

Hunters heading to the field for the opening weekend of pheasant season are encouraged to review safe hunting practices before they head out.

“Brushing up on safety should be part of every hunting plan,” said Megan Wisecup, recreational safety program supervisor with the DNR. “Go through the zone of fire with the hunting party, talk about avoiding target fixation and swinging on game.” Iowa had an increase in its pheasant population for the first time in five years, which may also lead to an increase in pheasant hunters.

Wisecup said hunters who have been away from pheasant hunting for a year or two should get reacquainted with the techniques – be sure to walk in a straight line and know where members of the hunting party are at all times, especially in low visibility areas like terraces, tall switch grass and standing corn.

“Wear plenty of blaze orange especially on the upper one third of your body. We are encouraging hunters to wear more blaze orange than the minimum required.  The goal is to be seen by other hunters,” Wisecup said. “The top pheasant hunting incidents all are related to not being seen. The shooter swings on a rooster, the victim is out of sight of the shooter or the rooster flew between the shooter and the victim.”

Wisecup said safety also extends to the canine companions.

“Avoid low shots to prevent injuring your hunting dog,” she said. “The hunting plan and safety practices are all part of a responsible hunt. The goal at the end of the day is for everyone to return home safely.”

Tips for a Safe Hunt

• Iowa law requires hunters to wear at least one of the following articles of visible, external apparel with at least 50 percent of its surface area solid blaze orange: hat, cap, vest, coat, jacket, sweatshirt, shirt or coveralls.

• Hunters should stay in communication with each other and to stay in a straight line while pushing a field.  Megan Wisecup with the DNR’s recreational safety programs said officers have investigated a number of incidents where hunters have been in a semicircle and had been shooting towards one-another.

• Discuss the hunting plan that spells out how the hunt will take place, each person’s role in the hunt and where each person will be at all times.

• Make sure to unload the gun when crossing a fence or other obstacle to avoid it accidentally discharging.

• Properly identify the target and what is beyond it.  This will be especially important for the next few weeks if hunting in fields that still have standing corn.

• If hunting with a dog, never lay a loaded gun against a fence.  Hunting dogs are usually excited to be in the field and could knock the gun over causing it to discharge.

• Share the hunt.  Take someone new along to help keep Iowa’s great hunting tradition alive.

Dove hunting

As tens of thousands of Iowa hunters gear up for pheasants and other upland game species, a handful are just wrapping up their dove season.

This year marked Iowa’s second mourning dove season; with wildlife biologists encouraging hunters to get out in the first couple weeks of the season—the first half of September—for their best prospects. In those first days many dove hunters reported seeing a couple hundred in a morning, especially tied to sunflower plots; a favorite dove feeding source.

Doves are an early migratory bird and most have moved on south by the time heavy frost comes and the crops are out of the fields.

But not all of them.

“I’ve hunted (around Washington and Johnson counties) fairly hard. I’m seeing, not as many…but 40 or 50 in a hunt, if part of a field has no cover. There could be more we didn’t see,” notes Rick Frees, of Riverside. Outside of the season’s first days, Frees hasn’t seen anyone else chasing doves—unless they were with him.

“Doves are going to stick around into winter; not as many, but with all the waste grain in the fields, it is worth locating where they are,” suggests DNR wildlife management biologist Tim Thompson.  “They may roost in a woodlot; then fly out to a picked field to feed.”

One key? Look for clues. Doves perched along fencerows or overhead lines are good indications that more are nearby.

“Most hunters are used to hunting pheasant or quail; with food and habitat really close together,” observes Frees. “Doves may fly a half mile or a mile for feeding or water. I was set up in a picked field, but doves were flying 80 yards overhead. I picked up (my decoys) and followed them over the top of a hill and 30 or 40 came boiling out.”

Source: Iowa Department of Natural Resources

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