Dove Hunting Dos and Don’ts, Part 2
Bob McNally 09.15.15
Following are solid dos and don’ts for dove hunting that are sure to increase your take of the bullet-quick birds.
—Don’t hunt without some type of blind. Lightweight portable camouflage blinds from companies like Avery are easy to use and inexpensive. Constructing a makeshift blind in an open field is easy. Simply cut tall weeds or small tree branches and insert them in the ground around your dove stool. Just three or four branches or tall weed clumps are enough to break a hunter’s outline, allowing doves to work well within shotgun range before spooking.
—Do carefully inspect anything that projects into a field forming a “point,” because it’s a natural entering and exiting spot for doves. Perimeter trees and fences along fields form the most common “points,” and the best ones have a large, prominent tree or two at their tip.
—Don’t hunt doves without wearing eye protection and a brimmed cap. Spent shot raining down on a field can be hazardous. Sunglasses, yellow-tint shooting eye wear, and a brimmed camouflage cap protect your precious vision.
—Do take note of the side(s) of fields having the largest stands of woods, especially mature pine trees. Timber is where doves roost, and it is from such roosting sites they’ll normally enter fields for feeding. Timber is the “home” or sanctuary of doves, much like thick bedding cover for whitetail bucks.
—Don’t “over choke” your shotgun. Far too many dove hunters wrongly use modified and full chokes. Wide-open chokes like skeet or improved-cylinder greatly improve most hunters’ hit percentage. Dove are lightly feathered, and small, needing only a few #8s or even #9s to fold them. So open up your shotgun choke, even when birds are soaring by at 35 or 40 yards.
—Do take a stand near a “tank” or cattle watering hole in a grain field, since doves invariably head to water after feeding in late afternoon. The best water holes have low, slow-sloping banks (preferably with sand) without much brush where doves can land safely and drink. A stand located between a water hole and a “gap” in perimeter timber surrounding a grain field may be the best of all possible dove hunting locations.
—Don’t overlook fresh-plowed ground adjacent to a grain crop field as a dove magnet. Often doves prefer freshly-tilled dirt since it produces seeds and eliminates ground cover so they can land without fear of predators. Plowed ground beside a harvested corn field or standing sunflowers is choice.
—Do use a bucket stool with a lid that swivels 360 degrees. Such a swivel top allows a hunter to easily spin and shoot at doves no matter which way they fly over. A canvas stool requires a shooter to stand and shoot or causes him to turn his torso in a contorted fashion to fire his gun at birds behind him. A comfortable swivel bucket stool makes for easier, faster, and better shooting.
—Don’t overlook hunting a field corner, which can be a “target spot” for doves working in and out of a field. Plus, a corner usually is a place where two fences join, which form “travel lines” for doves. Look for tree-line “gaps” in a field corner, or perhaps a large, isolated tree with spindly limbs, for an especially hot stand spot.
—Do wear complete camouflage—pants and shirt, cap, face mask, even gloves. Too many hunters believe doves are unwary and can’t detect a shooter in blue jeans, or one with his white face shining upward in afternoon sun. Doves are plenty cagey, however, especially after opening weekend on public land. By late season, hunters who don face masks and gloves, just like duck or goose hunters, usually fare better on doves.
—Don’t overlook care of your gun dog during warm-weather dove hunts. Carry plenty of water for a canine, and try to keep the dog in shade. Monitor the animal so it doesn’t overexert itself. Hard-driving retrievers can die from heat exhaustion during a hot-barrel, early-season dove shoot if a hunter is not attentive.
—Do take your first shot at an incoming dove while the bird is still 40 yards out. If you miss, it will climb or dart, but likely still will be in range for a second shot and perhaps even a third shot as it wings away.