I haven’t been dove hunting very long. Mostly because my opportunity to dove hunt is limited. But when September 1 begins to inch closer, I break out the shotgun and start getting ready. I can’t think of too many better ways to saturate the start of the fall hunting season with sheer fun, and some of the outdoors’ most delicious table fare.
Shooting a dove can be the likened to trying to hit against a very good pitcher in baseball. Doves are agile and can vary their speed instantly, making even the best wing shooters swing and miss. My advice, shoot plenty of clay birds before the hunt, and bring plenty of shotgun shells to the dove shoot.
Make it a Team Effort
Dove hunting is enjoyable alone, but depending on the location you hunt, you can be more successful by making it a “team” effort. Where I hunt in the timber hills of Missouri, we often center our efforts around feed lots and open pastures. Because of the availability of roost trees, hunting alone can provide one or two volleys of shooting before the birds “roost up”. Positioning a group of people around a feed lot safely, can keep the birds in the air longer, and provide the group a longer stint of shooting time. If you are hunting in an area with more row-crops or larger fields, you can apply the same principle by positioning shooters around the outer edge of the field. In this arrangement, safely knowing each other’s location is paramount. AA good rule of thumb is to never shoot a dove without blue sky under your gun barrel. This will minimize pointing your gun barrel directly toward another hunter.
What Gun to Use
I’ve seen and heard of several options being used for doves. I like to use a semi automatic 12 gauge with very light shot and an improved cylinder choke. (Preferably 7.5 size shot) I would say however, that the most popular choice for dove hunting could be the 20 gauge, simply because of its lower recoil and less opportunity for shot finding its way into the dove breast. Whatever you choose, keep it light. This will keep shooting comfortable and quick. Also, check your state’s local game laws for regulations concerning dove hunting load requirements.
Other Gear to Carry
Be sure to pack a seat. Some days in the dove field are fast and furious. Others are singles here, doubles there, with plenty of fellowship time in between. Also, make sure to use some sort of vest, or pack system that will allow you quick and easy access to your shells. Finally, you will hopefully need a storage system for your birds. 15 doves can pile up quickly. I like to use the same game carrier that I use for ducks and squirrels.
Believe it or not, Doves are more intelligent than you think. Their vision is impeccable. While you can wear the typical dark colored shirt and blue jeans, I would recommend wearing camouflage. I hate seeing birds flare because they can see me. Camo up and find a nice brushy spot or overhanging tree to set up beneath.
Keep it Fun
Dove hunting is a great opportunity to hunting with friends and even introduce youngsters to the sport. The important thing is keeping it fun and not being overly disappointed when you miss. We all do… more than we care to admit.