Officials in the Iowa Department of Natural Resources plan to create so-called “food plots” in publicly-owned wildlife areas around the state to lure in mourning doves and other migratory birds for hunters.

A panel of legislators reviewed the proposed rules for an Iowa dove hunting season this afternoon, and Representative Dave Heaton, a Republican from Mount Pleasant, asked about the concept.

“I’m hearing that down south they do some food plots with sunflowers,” Heaton said. “And then when the sunflowers ripen, they use the sunflower patches as traps or bait and then (hunters) sit around the sunflower path and have fun.”

Willie Suchy of the Iowa Departnent of Natural Resources admits attracting the doves is the impetus for planting these so-called “food plots” but he says other species are attracted to the areas.

“My wife will go out and watch 30 or 40 of the goldfinches upside down eating off the sunflowers,” Suchy says. “So there’s multiple benefits besides the doves, but we’ll focus some of our attention on providing a good recreational opportunity where it’s best possible.”

Neila Seaman, director of the Sierra Club’s Iowa chapter, objects to dove hunting and objects to planting plots of sunflowers, sorghum and wheat in public wildlife areas to lure the birds for hunters. 

“Sierra Club believes this would be a waste of D.N.R.’s limited human and financial resources,” Seaman says.

She also suggests it’s less than sporting. “Typically plot management schemes are implemented with the principle of planting and conditioning the birds to the fields prior to opening day,” Seaman says.

The D.N.R. envisions the opening day of dove hunting season in early September.  The agency’s waiting for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to publish the proposed season and solicit public comment before making the 70-day season final.  Under the proposed rules, hunters would be allowed to “bag” 15 mourning doves a day.

It’s been illegal to shoot mourning doves in Iowa for nearly a century, but earlier this year the legislature voted to legalize dove hunting in Iowa and Governor Branstad quickly signed the bill into law.