RURAL SUMNER, Mo. — Dove hunting season kicks off this Saturday and at the Swan Lake National Wildlike Refuge, enthusiasts will be gearing up for the first-ever hunt on refuge grounds.

KMZU’s Brian Lock chatted with Swan Lake National Wildlife Refuge Manager Steve Whitson about the opening of park land to hunters beginning Saturday.

Click below to hear their conversation, which aired as Thursday’s KMZU Newsmaker.

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“A few years ago, in 2012, we completed our conversation management plan for the refuge . . . lots of public scoping and that kind of stuff,” Whitson said. “We did look at ways we can enhance public hunting opportunities on Swan Lake.”

Dove hunting has not been allowed on the grounds of Swan Lake in the past, and Whitson suggested that dove hunting, as well as other forms of hunting, are an important part of sustainable wildlife management at the refuge going forward.

“Swan Lake is a national wildlife refuge, it is a unit of the National Wildlife Refuge System,” Whitson explained. “Within the refuge system, huting is one of our priority public uses so we look at opportunities that come about so we can allow the public access to hunt on a refuge in ways that don’t interfere with the objectives of a refuge.”

A portion of the refuge will be available for dove hunting, totaling about 150 acres, including wheat fields located on the northern end of the refuge.

“In 2014, we finalized and completed all the steps of completing a new hunting development plan for the refuge.” “It opened some other things to hunting on Swan Lake and we have been going through a process of opening different things and we are just now getting to the dove hunting.”

There are regulations regarding hunting at the refuge, according to Whiston.

“The day of the hunt, hunters at Swan Lake are required to check in and out,” said Whitson. “They can start checking in two hours before official sunrise. If they leave in the morning and come back in the afternoon, they’ll have to check out and check back in again.”

All hunters are required to possess their Missouri small game hunting permit and migratory bird hunting permit. When hunters arrive, they will be given a ‘harvest tag’ as well.

No lead shot is allowed at the refuge, Whitson explained, and only non-toxic shot will be allowed for use within the refuge.

To learn more about dove hunting at the Swan Lake National Wildlife Refuge, visit their website, where you can find more information about other activities at the refuge.