millet art sized

Naturally-growing, heavily-seeding plants can be sown and grown, generally, with the least possible preparation and fanfare and yield good results through a long fall and into winter. What’s more, they can be mowed, flooded or left standing, in part or in whole, at any time and in any combination and remain a legal site to hunt migratory game birds, as well as any other legal quarry that may run or fly.

Simple to plant, easy to grow and naturally attractive to dove and all sorts of other wildlife, browntop millet is a great selection for planting for use as a dove field come September, and keeping available for deer, turkeys and quail all year long.

Browntop is a leafy, annual grass that will grow roughly two to three feet tall. It matures in 50 to 60 days and produces excellent seed yields. Doves love these seeds, and preparing a field for a dove shoot in the fall by planting browntop millet in the summer is an excellent approach.

The maturity cycle means planting millet now to shoot over during the Labor Day Weekend dove opener is cutting it about as close as nature allows, we are still within the window for maturity in time for the Sept. 5 opening day.

Even if your crop’s maturity lands somewhat past that mark, browntop millet’s quick-growing nature means there’s far more than enough growing season left to set up your field for the rest of the fall.

Mississippi’s dove season is split into three segments which, this year, run from Sept. 5 through Oct. 18, Oct. 24 through Nov. 21 and Dec. 23 through Jan. 8. If your field’s maturity date means scheduling your family’s dove shoot later than the traditional opener, that may well be all for the best.

The vast majority of dove-shooting action takes place each year on Labor Day weekend and, what remains after that falls away greatly again when other seasons open.

Timing a field for a second-season dove shoot is one of the great hidden-in-plain-sight strategies available in Mississippi, and it’s one that commonly pays dividends far greater than could be realized on opening day.

Further, if your dove field is situated on a low-lying area that can be flooded, either intentionally or by natural happenstance, browntop millet is a wonderful forage that can be left standing and legally shot over for ducks.

Practicing, preaching

Dove fields prepared any way other than by growing and mowing must be created “according to normal agricultural practices,” to quote the state wildlife officials’ guidelines.

Available online at mdwfp.com, a pamphlet entitled “Dove Field Preparation and Hunting Regulations in Mississippi” can be found by clicking on the “Wildlife and Hunting” tab, then by following the links for the agency’s dove program. The document lays out what specifics the term “normal agricultural practices” includes.

Most concisely, the rules say a field that’s been disked and harrowed or otherwise cleared or smoothed, conditions both consistent with agricultural practices and those which doves like best for feeding, may be planted or sown once, evenly, and at a normal rate of seeding, and be legal for hunting.

Reaping what’s sown

Fields that are home to grains that have been grown on the spot, however, may be mown and hunted legally on any schedule, a few strips at a time, to keep and build the interest of doves leading up to and throughout the fall seasons.

Corn, sunflowers, brown top millet, milo or anything else that’s been grown on the land can be cut when and how the land manager chooses. Adding more grain on top of the mowing to sweeten the deal, however, is not legal. Sowing bags of millet over the top of land from which millet was just cut is not a normal, agricultural practice.

Second, grains that are traditionally top sown in the fall may be sown over prepared ground or no-till drilled and that area will be legal to hunt. A legal dove field can be prepared with wheat sown over disked ground, as this is a normal planting practice.

The pamphlet in question says wheat can be planted “at a rate not greater than 90 pounds per acre,” and notes it must be spread evenly across the area, not piled or clumped.

Furthermore, the pamphlet says it can’t be sown with wheat every few days to keep the doves coming, as this is not a normal agricultural practice.

Additionally, grains that are not traditionally top sown, such as sunflowers or millet, may not be top sown to attract doves. According to the pamphlet, since these seeds are typically covered when they’re planted, sowing them on top of the ground now to attract doves would create an illegal field.

Following best methods

Sunflowers or millet that has been grown in the same location, however, can be mowed, disked or otherwise knocked down and the field will be legal.

For more information, questions should be referred to the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks at 601-432-2400.

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