Saturday marks the beginning of the 2015-16 dove season in Louisiana, and enforcement agents with the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries will be out across the state making sure hunters have a safe opening day.

Capt. Robert Buatt, Region 5 commander for the LDWF, said legal hunting hours are one-half hour before sunrise to sunset, except on opening day on state wildlife management areas and LDWF-leased fields, where hunting hours are 12 noon to sunset.

The proximity of dove hunters to each other in some fields makes it extra important to follow basic firearm safety rules, he said. 

“We want to remind everyone to treat every gun as if it were loaded, and to keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction,” Buatt said. “And when you’re shooting doves, remember to be aware of what lies beyond your intended target.”

One of the more common citations issued during dove season is hunting over a baited field, but Buatt said it’s the hunter’s responsibility to make sure the area they are hunting is legal.

“If there are any concerns that the field is not a legal field to hunt on, you want to check your immediate area and ask the host how the field was prepared to make sure it’s not baited,” he said. 

Another tip Buatt shared for opening day is to make sure the plug is in your shotgun.

“Last year’s waterfowl season ended with the Conservation Order on geese, and it’s legal to hunt geese without a plug in your gun,” he said. “So make sure before you go into the field to hunt, to check your shotgun and make sure the gun is not capable of holding more than three shells, chamber included.”

Finally, Buatt said agents also will be checking to make sure hunters requiring hunter education certification have received the necessary training, he said. 

“Now people can buy their hunting license even though they have not taken the hunter safety class, but it will have a restriction on it,” he said. “That person has to hunt with a person who is 18 years of age or older, and if applicable, has completed the hunter safety class. 

“Children that are under 16 but over 11 can hunt by themselves if they have taken the hunter safety class. Children 11 years of age and younger must be with an adult.”