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Eurasian invasion: no season, no limits and big numbers--it's time to take on the invasive collared doves.

I could plainly see the black collar on its neck as well as the fan tail. The very light colored clove flew back into the thicket of junipers, disappearing. "Flush!" I commanded and unleashed the pup; Mac was already on his way. I took about 10 more. quick steps before the birds made their appearance.

A big plump Eurasian flew, crossing left. I instinctively took that bird with the open barrel from my turn-of-the-century English double, a gun that was built about the same time these invader doves reached Europe. I could hear birds flushing and piling out from the backside of the dense juniper stand, but out of sight. The thought occurred to me that I might have a chance at my first double on collared doves.

Izzy came bounding back through and sure enough, a pair of birds Hushed right. It was too much pressure for me--my first double opportunity and my pup's first Eurasian experience--and I missed. In the mean time, Mac retrieved the downed bird and was waiting to deliver it to hand.

I stood there with an empty gun, reaching for the bird when lzzy flushed one last hold-out and, of course, it flew right over my head. All I could do was look at that collared dove and shout "Good girl" as if somehow that would make up for my lack of attention.

I politely thanked Mac, apologized to my pup izzy and then threw out the Eurasian for her to retrieve. I wanted her to get a good whiff of our newest gamebird and take advantage of the opportunity to get some live bird experience. For a brief moment I lamented my miss, but then smiled at the thought of a year-round season with no limit.

I knew that come tomorrow the spaniels and I could hunt our newest gamebird--again.

INVASIVE SPECIES We spotted these Eurasians on a mourning clove scouting mission. Invasive collared doves are larger than migratory mourning doves, with fan tails and lighter coloration. Mac, my elder springer, was riding in the passenger scat when we looked at each other like two kids discovering a new candy bar.

Izzy, didn't quite understand what was going on but could sense our excitement and was eager to learn. I parked, looked at the dogs and felt a primal but kindred spirit well up between us.

I uncased my old double. Our approach would have to be sneaky. The puppy would be on the leash to begin with. A small family flock of our newest gamebirds were hanging out in the shade of ancient junipers. Others were loafing on wires near a wheat field. With the spaniels at heel, we slipped into a ditch, crouched and walked in slow and low,

Eurasian doves are not protected, therefore the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has left the management up to individual states. A non-native, invasive species, most states have no restrictions on bag limits and allow you to hunt them year-round.

Hunters may at first have difficulty distinguishing a Eurasian from a mourning dove. Collared doves are much larger and lighter in color and have a square tail that fans out more than a mourning dove's. The underside of their fantail is white at the end with a thick black band near the base. If you are close enough, you can see the black crescent collar on the back of their neck.

Originating in India, they quickly spread to Turkey. In the early 20th century they began expanding across North Africa and Europe. Eurasian doves can be found as far north as Iceland and above the Arctic Circle in Norway. With a European population estimated at 7 million, these doves are still expanding on that continent.

Eurasians came to the U.N. in the 1980s, landing in Florida via the Bahamas. Initially they were thought to be the African turtle dove species, hence the proliferation of the species carried on virtually unnoticed. By '95 they appeared in laYge numbers in northeast Texas, and today I hunt them in Colorado. They have spread to most states, including Alaska.

FEEDER SITES Liu-asian doves are dispersive and expansive, but not migratory. Once colonized in new habitat, they stay put year-round, drawn to agricultural fields, mixing with mourning doves. Watch for Eurasians roosting on utility poles, wires, and tall trees near feeding sites. They fly down from a perch to peck at grain and seeds in farm fields and spillage sites. The largest populations are typically found around farms where spilled grain is frequent: storage bins and feed troughs are optimal. A gregarious species, sizable winter flocks can form near a good food supply.

Eurasian doves eat mainly seed and cereal grain such as millet, sunflower, milo, wheat, and corn. They also eat some berries and green plants, as well as insects..

In colonized areas, flocks most commonly number between 10 and 50, but flocks of up to 10,000 have been recorded in the UK. They avoid areas with heavy forest cover and/ or extremely cold temperatures. These unique doves need supplemental water to digest nutrient-rich seeds, and are actually one of the very few birds that can drink with their head down Some worry that these big, prolific doves will impact our native mourning dove species by competing for nest sites and for the grains both species love. Also, there is always the fear of disease. So far both dove species have co-existed, feeding and roosting together, even sharing nests.

Eurasian doves typically breed and nest close to developed areas where food and water resources are abundant and there are trees for nesting. The female lays two white eggs in a stick nest, which she incubates during the night and the male takes his shift during the day. Incubation takes 14 to 18 days in spring, summer and fall. Three to four broods are produced per year, with up to six in warm climates. Collared doves are almost always seen in pairs and remain loyal to their mates. The oldest recorded Eurasian lived 1 3 years, 8 months.

The Eurasian cockbird's mating display is one of ritual flight and appears somewhat pigeon-like. His air dance consists of a rapid and near-vertical climb to height, followed by a long glide in a downward circling pattern with his wings held below his body in an inverted "V." Everyday flight is more direct, utilizing fast, choppy wing beats without much gliding.

HUNT'EM UP If you enjoy a challenge, these fast-flying targets. can create some year-round enjoyment. I typically like to go out during holiday breaks outside bird seasons. Summer is also one of my favorite times because the kids can go.

My son Matthew is almost nine and just announced he's ready to obtain a hunter's safety certificate. Sister Marley is not one to be left out of an adventure, so I am confident she will be next. You can imagine my delight. What better way to introduce my children to hunting than collared doves with our pup? I can hardly wait.

Successfully bagging Eurasian doves can be done over decoys. Spinners provide the best results. You can also catch them in flight between the trees and their water or food source, or walking them up early in the morning during feeding time. ' Currently, the method I prefer is spot, stalk and flush. This may change if their numbers expand as predicted. Although the flight of the Eurasian dove is a bit slower than the mourning dove, they're no slouch. Putting a few on the dinner table is still a challenge.

They taste just as good as mourning cloves; just larger breast medallions. I like to grill them with a jalapeiio pepper stuffed inside and the breast wrapped in bacon. You can fillet them too cooked on low in gravy or marinade.

The ancient junipers moved in the wind as I imagined the flush the dogs were about to produce. We paused in the ditch and peeked through the grass from about 30 yards before taking one last deep breath. The Eurasians were getting restless and one big fellow flew out and circled above us. We ducked down just in time.
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Author:Winston, Scott
Publication:Gun Dog
Date:Sep 1, 2014
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