Opening the hunting season at Cypress Lodge

Published 10:59 pm Saturday, September 9, 2006

When I was invited to the Cypress Lodge to kick off dove season for the 06’-07’ hunting season, I jumped at the opportunity. Pulling into the lodge house, you get the feeling of going home to a weekend with relatives. The undeniable feeling of down home everyday folks makes you comfortable and adds to the experience of good food, new made friends and a great hunt.

Owner Wade Hinson is a true outdoorsman and has dedicated his life to making a living off of the land. Cypress Lodge also is a full time working farm with several operations keeping the Henson’s busy year round. Farming meat goats, a cattle operation, producing monthly team roping events monthly and a timber farming ensures that Wade and his experienced crew Keith Hooten and Calvin Hill have a working knowledge of the land far beyond that of some outfitters.

After the welcome from the staff it was off to the well stocked lake to hook up several bass just to fulfill the outdoor experience and get the juices flowing. Before setting in for the night we were fed a hunters dream of bar-b-q and baked beans with mamas home made brownies and cookies. A littlie football and some cattle talk ended the evening and then it was dreams of a fields filled with dove tempting your skill as a marksman.

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The morning broke with the hunting party in a well prepared field on the banks of the Big Black River with the fog looming and disguising the passing birds. Shots rang out and we were in business. As luck would have it I was on the wrong end of the field from the hot action, but still got my chance to scare off several doves. As the sun continued to rise and the fog began lifting I could see the field and really get a better picture at the time and effort put in by the Cypress Lodge crew.

Wade and I stood by one of the many round bales and watched the birds fly the field as we talked about what is needed to have a productive field. This particular field had been utilized as a fertilized native grass hay field, and then planted in black oil sunflowers. Now pay attention to the first part of the previous sentence, native grass is the key.

After many years of farming and hunting, Wade explained that the grasses that many farmers plant, fertilize and cut for hay are really not the best. Bahaya grass is a favorite grass of southern farmers and probably is used more than most for hay, not on the Cypress Lodge fields. Wade has come to realize that well fertilized native grasses yield better quality, better quantity and have the offering of feed and seed for native game that they are accustomed too.

To entice the birds in the field, Wade had planted black oil sunflower seeds. This is the favorite sunflower of dove and works wonders in combination with brown top millet, corn, crab grass and what I think is the all time best dove attractant, wild goat weed.

Many hunters are afraid to prepare a dove field for fear of illegally baiting. The rules were, at one time, a little vague and left a lot to be decided by the officer. Today there is a better controlled understanding about what can be applied and planted and when it can be done.

To begin with, the rules for a dove field are broken up into two parts. First you can shoot doves over any normal agricultural practice that is normal and be totally safe. This means shooting doves over a freshly planted rye grass, winter wheat, oats or any other crop normally planted for livestock is legal. It is also fine to shoot dove over a harvested hay field, corn field or millet filed.

I know of a group of dove hunters that actually plant wild bird seed that you can purchase at Wal-Mart or any local feed store. The plants come up and can be legally manipulated to attracted dove. Some say that the seeds have a low germination rate, but theses guys have been doing it for years and say it works.

The second rule is one I have already mentioned in the previous paragraph and it has to deal with intentional planting of crops to shoot dove over. This is probably the best way to get a great dove field. By planting specific plants such as millet, crab grass, sunflower, okra, corn and other small, seed bearing, plants is perfectly legal. The problem that most get into is trying to sneak in some added seed. This is highly illegal and will get yourself and the other hunters in the shooting party a pretty hefty fine.

Actually the only type of seed that can be spread on plowed ground to shoot dove over is winter wheat. Since it is a natural agricultural practice to plant winter wheat in September, you can shoot over it, as long as you follow the normal planting rate of 90 pounds per acre spread evenly over the ground. Winter wheat may not be piled up, but it can be drilled in instead of spread on prepared ground. Winter wheat can not be spread on unprepared ground since it needs to be in contact with soil to grow.

After you have your field matured with what ever type of plants you chose, it is recommended to clip strips every week or so to keep the birds on the field longer. This is called manipulation of the crop and it is perfectly legal in preparing the field. Plowing strips in your field is also a highly desired offering to the elusive birds.

Baiting is a highly debated subject but only as it has to do with shooting the game over bait. There is no law against feeding wildlife, but there is a law against shooting any wildlife over bait in Mississippi. You can pour out as much grain such as millet, wheat, sunflower seeds, chops and any other types you may use feed animals. The law states that after the field is clear of all the bait, it is off limits for 10 days before it can be hunted. Another thing to remember about baiting, there is no set distance that you can be away from the bait and be safe.

If an officer comes to your dove field and you have chops and all other types of seed poured out on your neighbor’s property across the fence, you are still at the judgment of the officer. It is always the hunter’s responsibility to know all the rules and ensure that he or she is within the guidelines set. In this situation I would bet that you would get a nice shiny ticket.

As in most cases, natural forages are the best when looking to produce a plot for wildlife. If you are looking for a great get hunt, great food from Mrs. Mary be sure and call Wade and the crew at Cypress Lodge Outfitters in Kilmicheal.

I hope that you take the time to hunt a few birds and as always, Get outdoors and enjoy what God has given us.