Iowa's first dove hunting season opens September 1st. (D.N.R. photo)

Iowa’s newest hunting season opens later this week following months of heated debate about the use of lead shot and the killing of mourning doves. Iowa’s new dove hunting season will run from September 1 through November 9.

Experienced dove hunters, like Scott Gritters of Guttenberg, are excited they won’t have to travel out of state to test their skills. Gritters, a D.N.R. fisheries biologist, says dove hunting is a relaxing, yet challenging sport.

“They’re very sporty and acrobatic. It takes a good shot to get ’em,” Gritters said. The dove season is expected to attract around 20,000 resident hunters, including many who have never before hunted doves.

Gritters says it can be frustrating for beginners. He suggests practicing with clay targets. “I think those people who are really good at shooting teal, which is a very fast duck…I think those people will have a better chance at (shooting doves),” Gritters said. “But hunting is like anything, you’ll be better if you practice.”

Doves are most active in the morning and evening and tend to flock near water and low-standing or harvested crops. Hunters can wear camouflage, but are not allowed to use live decoys or bird calls. Gritters says doves are not only a challenge to shoot, but good to eat.

“I’m really looking forward to cooking the first batch up. They are an awesome eating bird,” Gritters said. “We usually just wrap ’em in bacon on the grill.”

Iowa is now one of 41 states to allow dove hunting. Hunters are being allowed to use lead shot this season, despite protests from some individuals who’ve raised environmental concerns. The Iowa Legislature is expected to debate a ban on lead shot before the 2012 dove hunting season.