The annual mourning dove, band-tailed pigeon hunts opened Thursday morning. Early reports indicate hunters are experiencing a change from usual hunting patterns.

Typically, storms in the northern part of the state move doves south. This year storms down south have pushed birds there out of the state, while birds up north have stayed put. Some of the better hunting was reported in the upper half of the state.Best hunting, as is typical for dove, has been around water with nearby stubble fields, or fields where grain has been cut, or sunflower patches.

Hunters are reporting that the birds have not moved into flocks yet but are scattered in smaller groups.

Early reports also indicate that hunting pressure is down this year. Last year, slightly more than 22,000 hunters harvested 200,000 doves over the monthlong season. The limit on dove is 10 birds.

In an attempt to get a clearer picture of the band-tailed pigeon population, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources is requiring pigeon hunters to buy a $2 permit this year. Officers will then check with hunters at the end of the season. This represents a very small number of hunters, however. Several years ago, when permits were required, fewer than 200 were purchased statewide.

Most of the pigeon hunting is in southern Utah.