Dove hunting marks Delaware as a Southern state

September 7, 2012
Jamie Turner is the director of the Delaware Emergency Management Agency.

In the eastern United States, most people think of the Mason-Dixon Line - dividing Maryland from Pennsylvania - as the boundary between the North and the South.  But 98 percent of Delaware lies east of the Mason-Dixon Line that defines the western boundary of the state.

So is Delaware a Northern or a Southern state? The simple answer is we’re both.  Like the northeastern U.S., we have our industrialized north in New Castle County.  Like the southeastern portion of the country, we have our agrarian south here in Sussex County.

Last Saturday, people in Sussex heard another connection to our Southern roots.  Volley after volley of shotgun fire echoed from farm to farm.  Opening day of dove season. In most states to the north, doves are considered songbirds.  No hunting seasons.  In Delaware and Maryland and other states to the south, doves are considered game birds.  For those who enjoy the natural bounty, dove is considered a wonderful delicacy.

Unlike last year when a wet and stormy spring knocked a high percentage of the doves’ flimsy nests to the ground, this year proved a much more benign nesting season.  Dove numbers were way up, and many hunters reported good success at bagging their 15-bird limit. That’s saying something, too.  Doves fly fast, present a small target and challenge any hunter’s wing-shooting skills.

The limit gives a clue to the state’s assessment of the dove population. For many decades, the daily limit was pegged at 12.  Within the past several years that limit was increased.  Wildlife managers don’t increase limits when they think a population is in danger. Another thing minimizing impact on the dove population is the steady decline in the number of hunters taking to the field to hunt doves. Statistics in some states show the number of people hunting doves has fallen by almost half in the past 10 years.

Ducks Unlimited is also projecting a healthy population of ducks and geese for the fall and winter migration. There was a similar assessment last year, but the extremely mild winter kept the heaviest numbers of waterfowl to our north.  We will see what this next winter brings.  Love the change of the seasons.

People populations increasing too

With a world population of people recently passing the 7-billion mark, it only makes sense that every time Mother Nature flexes her muscles, more people feel the squeeze. For that reason, Delaware’s emergency management agency director, Jamie Turner, is happy to see Labor Day come and go without the kind of major evacuation we saw in 2011 in advance of Hurricane Irene. Turner said it’s estimated that on major holiday weekends between July and Labor Day, there are about 3.5 million people on the Delmarva Peninsula from Route 9 south, primarily along the coast.

“We have to plan for moving those people out if a major storm is bearing down us.  That’s done with a coordinated effort between emergency officials in all of the Delaware counties and the Eastern Shore counties of Maryland and Virginia,” he said.

While populations are increasing, so too is the technology used to provide precise forecasting.  “The predicted cones of impact,” said Turner, “have significantly decreased in size due to the technology available and the interaction between the Hydrological Prediction Center (flooding) and the National Hurricane Center (winds).”

Turner said his highest priorities in managing emergencies, in this order, are saving the lives of citizens and responders, minimizing the impact of incidents and restoring the infrastructure (electricity, water, roads, etc.).