“In August you are looking for it to be hot and dry,” Richardson said. “Those type of conditions really bring the birds together and they flock up really good. A little bit cooler, some rain and cloudy days, those birds just kind of stay scattered out, spread apart in a lot smaller groups feeding throughout the day. You just don’t see them as much.”
Barring a major storm, there still likely will be hundreds of bird hunters scattered over the 10 to 20 fields at Hackberry Flat on Sept. 1 despite the poor hunting forecast. Historically, a below average day of dove hunting at Hackberry is still pretty good compared to most places.
Schoonover sees many of the same faces each year. Some people will travel 200 miles to hunt doves on opening day on the wetland.
“There is a bunch of ‘em that’s been coming for the 24 years I’ve been here,” he said. “A lot of ‘em bring their kids and grandkids.”
Hackberry Flat typically will draw 200 to 300 hunters on the first day of dove season. Opening day is a huge event across the state as hunters are eager to get back in the field and pull the trigger. Opening day also is a big social gathering for family and friends.
Even though dove hunting is open through October, it is a one-day season for most people. That’s why it will be such a disappointment if opening day is a bust.
The state’s stormy spring disrupted early dove nesting. Richardson said the state’s dove population normally starts to build in July, but this year it was early August before the numbers began to rise.
Heavy rains in May and June also resulted in flooded crop fields and late planting, particularly in central and eastern Oklahoma, ruining what normally would have been good dove hunting fields on opening day.
(Story continued below…)