July began the month of dove trapping. The state issued our office 30 bands and it was my responsibility to set the traps and band these doves. I've always been aware that doves aren't exactly high up on the intelligence scale. In fact, I was certain the scale went: Chimps, dolphins, dogs, parrots, horses, cows, mullet, and doves.After seeing and setting the traps, I came to the realization that doves are actually dumber than originally believed. The dove trap is a square cage with tunnels on the sides. One places seed in a line leading through the tunnel and into the cage....and that's it. The doves follow the seed in and can't figure out how to go back through the tunnel. The trap follows the same principle as a crawfish trap, but I've at least seen crawfish escape before. I've now had to revise the intelligence scale to this: Chimps, dolphins, dogs, 90% of the people encountered in Wal-mart, parrots, horses, cows, mullet, an oak tree, a brick, ABC's: The View, and finally doves.
Bands were put on the right leg and each band had its own ID number. I had to check each bird's molt stage, age, and sex. After this they were free to go...sometimes. On three separate occasions I released a dove only to have it sit in my hand and not fly away. I had to drop it in order for it to realize it could escape.
I set traps at four different locations around the WMA and had to check them every hour because of the heat. After all, no one likes roasted dove....well...maybe...but you get my point. My first day of trapping produced 10 dove and I had high hopes for knocking out the entire month's worth of banding in under a week. After that day, I never caught more than 3 in a day. I point the blame to turkeys. Ninja turkeys at that.
Over the course of a few weeks, the turkeys figured out that every time a truck drove up, seed magically appeared around the traps. After the truck left, they were free to eat all the seed around the trap and as far into the tunnel as their necks could reach. With that, they'd slip silently back into the bushes to await my next hour's visit. Each and every time I'd show up...the seed was gone and I'd have to re-bait. I knew it was turkey from the tracks. I just couldn't catch them in the act. At one point, I waited only 15 minutes rather than an hour only to find that they'd sneaked in, eaten all the seed, and disappeared (like a ninja) back into the bushes.
The abundance of turkeys brings me to my next point: Turkey hunters not trying hard enough.
I was assigned the (riveting) task of logging ALL comments on the back of hunter check cards from the previous hunting seasons. Yes, all of them. Even the: "Why the $@%* did you cut down so many trees?!" and the "Found some *%&hole in my treestand this morning!".
Several clever hunters had the audacity to write: "Stock with more turkey". If they only realized all they have to do is park their truck, act like their throwing seed, hide, and wait, then they'd have a turkey in under 15 minutes. Three Lakes is actually WELL known for its Osceola Turkey hunting and I've probably seen more turkey than I have deer since I've been here. Therefore, I feel I must place these whining turkey hunters on my intelligence scale. Somewhere between the mullet and an oak tree. Or maybe just below the brick.
To my surprise, the traps actually caught more than just Mourning Doves. They also caught Ground Doves:
And one (slightly angry) Mockingbird:
On a side note, I'm busy compiling a list of all creatures one might encounter that bite. I'm pleased to announce the the Mockingbird has been added to this list.
Overall, the dove trapping proved to be quite fun when I wasn't being sabotaged by ninja turkeys. I was almost bummed when I caught and banded my 30th dove since I knew it would be right back to spraying for exotics again.