FRANKFORT, KY — Farmers can now earn up to $10,000 for leasing their harvested fields for public dove hunting.
The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources now offers two programs that pay farmers for allowing public dove hunting access.
The department’s new Voluntary Public Access (VPA) Dove Fields program is different from the existing Cooperative Dove Field Program, which pays farmers to grow crops that attract doves and to manage the fields for public dove hunting opportunities.
The VPA Dove Fields program seeks landowners willing to enroll harvested crop fields with enough seed and grain byproduct left behind to attract doves. Kentucky Fish and Wildlife is interested in leasing these fields for public dove hunting.
Wildlife Biologist Wes Little said the agency is always trying to increase hunting opportunities in ways that relate back to local communities.
“With these new dove fields, we can fill in the gaps,” he said. “There is a lot of available land to hunt on state WMAs (Wildlife Management Areas), but those aren’t always close to where our dove hunters live and work. Once enrolled in the program, the harvested crop fields would be accessible to dove hunting just like a WMA.”
Specific lease payments will be based upon the number of acres enrolled, crop type and the number of days a landowner plans to participate in the program. The VPA Dove Fields program targets hemp producers, both because of the burgeoning industry in Kentucky and because of the crop’s attractiveness to doves.
“Hemp grown for fiber or seed crops attracts as many doves as the best sunflower food plots,” Little said.
Federal regulations prohibit hunting mourning doves over areas where bait has been placed, but agricultural fields are a convenient and legal way to attract the birds. Other crop fields eligible for the program include silage crops, such as corn, millet or milo, and wheat cover crops grown on tobacco fields, all of which are known for attracting doves. Wheat seed may also be available through the program to be sown as a cover crop in certain situations.
The habitat surrounding a suitable crop field may also be eligible to receive an additional payment per acre if the landowner’s maximum has not been reached, but only if the offered acres will provide hunter parking or additional hunting land that will improve the quality of the public dove hunting access.
Dove hunting season opens on Sept. 1 and is most popular on opening day, weekends and holidays. Landowners have several different scheduling options to choose from when it comes to opening their land to the public. A few stipulations also apply, such as accessibility, location, proximity to cities and overall potential for success.
Kentucky has an applicable recreational use law (KRS 411.190) intended to encourage private landowners to allow outdoor recreation on their land without charging the recreationists a fee. Landowners should consult with their attorneys to better understand how this law applies to them.