York County, SC (WLTX) – An hour and fifteen minutes north of Columbia, sprawling across 60 acres, flourish field of sunflowers and land that serves one critical purpose: conservation. And although many travel for miles to take that classic selfie with the bright yellow background, not many know just how important those flowers are, or why the fields exist in the first place.
Draper Wildlife Management Area in McConnells, South Carolina, is home to two public dove fields – one youth and one adult – which provide a hunting opportunity for residents across the state. Dove fields are natural spaces designated for attracting doves specifically for hunting purposes. “Doves are a game species because they proliferate quickly, and can create a higher population than an area can sustain,” according to Andrew Hook, Wildlife Biologist for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR). Doves feed on grain species, so farmers and their crops can be negatively affected by overpopulation. “Hunting is the best conservation for that species, being that it is a form of population control,” Hook says.
Draper WMA contains a mix of sunflowers, corn, browntop millet and winter wheat which attract doves and other small game, such as bobwhite quail, wild turkey, and cottontail rabbit. While the golden flowers only bloom for about two weeks every year – around July 4th – the crops provide seeds and different nutrients for wildlife throughout the summer and through the opening day of dove hunting season, which falls on Labor Day Weekend.
Adding sunflowers to any home garden or wildlife plan can help the local environment. “You can get a lot of sunflower seeds as far as for gardening purposes for very cheap. They do need a lot of heat and water, but they will provide a great ecosystem benefit for local pollinators,” Hook says. Sunflowers attract bees, butterflies and other pollinators which give surrounding crops a huge advantage.
Draper WMA is free and open to the public year-round, during daylight hours. If you’re interested in hunting on this public land, or just want to check out the fields, visit DNR.SC.GOV for licensing/permit information, rules and regulations.
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