Don Hickman lives on Sauvie Island, but hunts ducks at a friend’s farm.
…Which is where he was pleasantly surprised to take three banded mallards Wednesday. A single banded mallard – bands are used on relatively few ducks to monitor their movements during migration – is unusual, but three in one day is rare.
And they weren’t his only reward for hunting in the rain.
Hiking back to his rig, he recognized two forms sitting in the branches of the only tall tree along a fenceline. A couple of no. 7 steel shotshells later, he added a pair of doves to his duck strap.
But not native mourning doves.
Mourning dove season lasts through October, but Hickman’s similar quarry can be taken all year – no season; no limit.
Nor are they common rock pigeons, also subject to year-round hunting.
Rather, these were Eurasian collared doves; larger and lighter than mourning doves and marked by a distinctive band around the back of the neck.
Collared doves reproduce naturally, but aren’t native to Oregon or even the western Hemisphere.
First seen in the Caribbean in the 1970s, collared doves showed up in Florida in the 1980s and quickly spread across the continent. Most states consider them invasive. They’re popular among hunters across Texas and the southeast.
“They’re pretty well-established,” said Brandon Reishus, migratory bird biologist for theOregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. “Kind of like feral poultry.”
Oregon biologists began noticing collared doves in 2000. They were common across most of Eastern Oregon within four or five years and by the end of the decade were seen statewide, from desert to sea.
Reishus said the department didn’t initially allow hunting, but then relented and allowed hunters to take collared doves during the mourning dove season.
While other states opened hunting with no limits, the agency remained concerned for awhile hunters might mistake mourning doves for collared, but hunters in other states were easily able to discriminate so a few years ago, Oregon removed collared doves from its protected bird list.
That means they can be taken any time, along with house sparrows and starlings. A hunting license is required on public land.
The same is true in Washington, which also requires a hunting license.
It does not, by the way, eliminate city or local laws prohibiting shooting or trespass laws on private property.
Which is where most collared doves are found, although they’re probably still spreading into available habitat.
“They seem to be associated with humans,” Reishus said. “They’re not real common away from structures.”
That includes farms and rural communities, where permission to hunt big game or game birds might be problematic, but easier to obtain for rock pigeons and collared doves.
Reishus said many believe collared doves compete with mourning doves for food and nests, but there hasn’t been much research and biologists don’t believe it’s a problem, although “people still don’t buy it,” he said.
Collared doves are “seed generalists,” Reishus said. “They’ll eat any seed they can get down their throat.
They’re also opportunistic nesters, i.e, just about anywhere they can pull a few twigs together and most likely don’t migrate nearly as much as mourning doves.
“They probably move with the snow to find food,” Reishus said, “but they won’t take off like migrating birds.”
Hickman breasted his doves and put them in a crockpot with some teal and cream of mushroom soup.
“They taste like a migratory bird,” he said. “But not as strong. It’s a milder dark meat.”
Speaking of invasives: The Oregon Bass and Panfish Club held its annual all-species fish-in Sept. 30 in Multnomah Channel.
Anglers caught 10 non-natives: Yellow perch; black and white crappie; largemouth and smallmouth bass; pumpkinseed; bluegill; bullhead and channel catfish, and walleye.
On cue, this coming week’s meeting Thursday, from 7-9 p.m. in the East Portland Community Center, 740 SE 106th Ave., will be about which color lures to use for fall walleye and smallmouth bass.
(Last year, by the way, large smallmouth were caught nearly all winter in the Columbia River Gorge.)
Washington may ease angling regs: The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is simplifying fishing rules for the state Fish and Wildlife Commission to consider.
Among the proposals are standardized seasons in streams and rivers, the end of most mandatory steelhead retention rules and lifting all bag and size limits for bass, walleye and catfish in rivers and streams.
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