Plant The Ultimate Dove Field

A 42-acre field in Lamar County will be a demonstration area this month, with the “ultimate” dove shoot coming in September.

Lindsay Thomas Jr. | May 1, 2002

If you’ve struggled with trying to bring off a field of sunflowers, corn or millet in the last couple of years, you are not alone. The drought has made it difficult to prepare for dove season by withering a lot of would-be dove fields. Maybe this time around you would like a little professional guidance, and if so you are in luck. This month, May 2002, folks who have been planning and planting dove fields for years are coordinating the “Ultimate Dove Field,” a demonstration project that you can see planted, watch all summer long, and — if you hurry — take your dove stool and 12 gauge to in September.

The Ultimate Dove Field is a brainchild of the Lamar County Soil & Water Conservation District (SWCD), chaired by Walter Geiger, and the Barnesville Ag Expo Authority. It is located on a 42-acre field owned by the Ag Expo Authority.

“The Authority is going to build a huge Agri-Center out there, like a miniature of the Agricenter at Perry,” said Walter. “Every year on this land there are just tons of doves, and nobody shoots them, so we came up with the idea to have a dove shoot to raise money to build the facility. We decided if we’re going to have a dove shoot, why not have a field day and show people different crops and different ways of planting them.”

Sunflowers (shown here), popcorn, millet, sesame and many other dove, deer, turkey and quail food crops will be planted at the Ultimate Dove Field in Lamar County.

The Field Day will be held on May 18 in Barnesville, and the idea has grown to include a number of exhibitors. Several agencies, like the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Georgia Forestry Commission, Georgia DNR and the UGA County Extension Service, will be helping put on the Field Day. Pennington Seed and Akins Farm and Home Supply are sponsoring the event and providing the seed for the Ultimate Dove Field.

And it will be the “ultimate” field! Twelve different test plots, 200 feet by 100 feet in size (about half an acre), will be planted near the front of the field, right by a road where you can drive by all summer and watch them grow. Each plot will be labeled clearly from the road, and the crops include black peredovic sunflowers, corn, Pennington’s Dove Mix, dove proso, white proso and browntop millet, sesame, sorghum, and Egyptian wheat. There will also be a deer plot of joint vetch, and a plot demonstrating quail and turkey crops. Meanwhile, the rest of the 42-acre field will be planted in popcorn stripped with sunflowers. Half of this mix will be put in with a no-till seed drill, the other half by conventional harrowing and then drilling, in order to demonstrate the different results obtained with the two methods.

“People can ride by and watch these crops grow the whole year and see how they develop, what does well if we have a drought and what doesn’t do well,” said Walter.

At press time, Walter said he was trying to get most of the field in the ground while there was plenty of moisture, but about 10 percent of the planting will be saved for May 18. Attendees at the Field Day will get to see the planting methods, including no-till seeding.

Taking a soil sample is important for a successful dove field.

Also on the Field Day, Pennington representatives will offer seminars on seed selection, and folks from Akins Farm and Home will talk about fertilizing and liming. County agents will share information on soil types and soil testing. The Georgia Forestry Commission will demonstrate their wildlife food-plot harrows, which can be hired by the public — complete with tractor and driver — to put in food plots on private land. Georgia DNR will also provide tips on habitat management for deer and turkeys. 

The cost of the Field Day is $5 per person, which covers lunch and door-prize drawings. Unless you register before May 15, no meal is guaranteed. The Field Day begins at 9 a.m. and ends at 1 p.m. 

When September rolls around, a lucky handful of hunters will get to put this Ultimate Dove Field to the test with shotguns. Walter said that the Ultimate Dove Field Shoot will be held on the first Wednesday of dove season, September 11, to avoid conflicts with traditional opening-day events. Seats on the field are $100, a tax-deductible donation to the Ag Expo Authority. There are a total of 50 seats available, some of which are already sold.

Walter has personally been plant-ing fields for commercial dove shoots for 20 years, so he knows the most   successful techniques. His advice was to get your dove fields in soon.

The cheapest and easiest dove crop to bring off, millet, usually matures and seeds out in around two months. The white proso variety, Walter’s favorite, takes 60-65 days, while browntop takes about 70 days. Based on this, some field owners wait until June to plant so the crop matures just before the season comes in. In dry years like the ones we’re having, Walter said waiting is dangerous.

“The problem with planting in June is that by that time it’s too dry to get anything out of the ground. At least it’s been that way for the last three or four Junes,” he said. “That’s why we’re trying to get this popcorn and sunflowers in now, while we’ve got some moisture in the ground.”

Peridovic sunflowers mature in 105 days, said Walter. His favorite plan for a sunflower field is to mow and then burn strips through the field just prior to the planned shoot.

“If you have the most beautiful dove fields on either side of the road, and you just mow one and mow and burn the other, they’re going to go to the burned field. They just love a clean field where they can get the seed without all those stobs in the way.”

Even if you can’t make the Field Day, the Ultimate Dove Field will be on display for all passersby from now through dove season. The Ultimate Dove Field is located in Barnesville on Roberta Drive. Turn west on Roberta Drive off of Hwy 341, just south of the Hwy 341/Hwy 18 intersection. There will be plenty of signs to direct you to the Field Day.

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