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Extension Forestry & Natural Resources

Wildlife & Fisheries Biology  -  Environmental & Natural Resources  -  Forest Resources


Attracting Doves...Legally
South Carolina’s Official Planting Guide for Mourning Dove Fields

April 2014

Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)Planting and cultivating dove fields are popular techniques used by South Carolina sportsmen, landowners, and land managers to attract doves, as well as to provide food and cover for a wide range of wildlife species. Careful planning, and an understanding of the legal guidelines for planting and managing dove fields, is essential to producing a successful and legal dove field. Best management practices for establishing any successful supplemental plantings for wildlife enhance seed germination, plant growth, and provide nutrients for wildlife for prolonged periods of time.  With proper planning and management, seeds produced by native broadleaf herbaceous plants (e.g. ragweed, crotons, lespedezas, beggar-weeds, partridge pea) and native grasses (e.g. panic grasses, paspalums, barnyard grass) can also provide food and cover for doves and other wildlife year-round.

This publication provides guidelines for establishing a variety of seed-producing plants preferred by doves in South Carolina, as well as for common and legal small grain agricultural practices that also attract doves. Although doves may be attracted using a variety of small grain agricultural practices, the intent of these practices is for agricultural purposes and not for the sole purpose of luring and attracting doves for shooting, which the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service defines as baiting.  In addition, many of these practices are short-term and do not provide long-term benefits and value to doves and other wildlife, as compared to a variety of well-established wildlife plantings that produce seed, forage, and cover for wildlife year-round. 

Practices Not Acceptable and Illegal

  1. Sowing seeds several times in succession on the same ground. 
  2. Piling, clumping, or concentrating small grains on the ground. 
  3. Except as provided by recommendations in this document, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service considers seeds freshly planted or otherwise distributed for the purpose of luring, attracting, or enticing doves within gun range to be baiting, and hunting doves in these areas is illegal. 

Manipulating Crops is a Legal Practice for DovesImportant Considerations

  • Establishing dove fields with a variety of wildlife plantings provides food throughout the hunting season for doves and other wildlife.
  • Certified Seed: Use of certified seed provides a level of insurance against poor germination, seed-borne diseases, and weeds. PVP varieties (covered under the Plant Variety Protection Act) can only be saved for seed by the grower for use on their own land.  Patented varieties cannot be saved for seed. Check with seed companies for legal requirements.
  • To enhance dove use of fields, keep areas between rows weed-free by cultivating or using herbicides following label guidelines with special considerations to possible negative effects to pollinators and native bees.
  • Plan for at least a portion of the field to mature two weeks prior to hunting.
  • Scout fields several weeks in advance of hunting to determine use by doves.  
  • Limit dove shooting to 1-2 days a week. Too much shooting will cause doves to move to other areas.
  • Manipulating portions of the field by mowing, chopping, burning, or disking prior to hunting will help expose seeds and attract doves to the field.

Recommended Plantings for Doves and Agricultural Practices that Attract Doves

Recommended Plantings for Doves and Agricultural Practices that Attract Doves

Recommended Plantings for Doves and Agricultural Practices that Attract Doves


Dove Proso Millet (Panicum miliaceum)John Andrae, Associate Professor, Extension Forage Specialist, Clemson Cooperative Extension Service, Clemson University

Marion Barnes, Senior Extension Agent, Clemson Cooperative Extension Service, Clemson University

Billy Dukes, Assistant Chief of Wildlife, South Carolina Department of Natural Resources

David Gunter, Grain Specialist, Clemson Cooperative Extension Service, Clemson University

Gordon Mikell, Conservation Agronomist, South Carolina USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service

Dick Yetter, Wildlife Biologist, South Carolina USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service

Greg Yarrow, Professor of Wildlife Ecology; Chair, Natural Resources; School of Agricultural, Forest and Environmental Sciences, Clemson University

SCDNR LogoThis publication was written in cooperation with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources

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This article is a publication of Clemson University Cooperative Extension's Forestry & Natural Resources team. This fact sheet may be reprinted in its entirety for distribution. If sections are re-used in other states, credit must be given to Clemson Extension and the authors.

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