Opening Day Dove Hunting

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opening day dove hunt
A dove hunter watches dove activity along the tree-fringed border of a harvested milo field. Determining when and where doves fly into or over a feeding field is one key to having a successful opening day hunt.

 “Heads up!” The muffled shout came from the dove hunters right. He turned just in time to see a mourning dove speed down the fencerow, then drop low over the cut milo. Before he could raise his shotgun, another dove hunter dropped the bird with a clean shot.

“Nice shot,” he called. Then another dove hunter was yelling, pointing behind them. “Birds comin’ in.” Three doves blazed by like bantam kamikazes. When they were in front of them, the dove hunter shouldered his shotgun and fired at the lead bird. It faltered as the load of No. 9s dusted its tail but kept flying. Not a perfect shot, but the bird fell 40 yards out. The dove hunter ran to retrieve it.

dove hunting trip
To prepare for a dove hunting trip, dove hunters should observe potential hunting sites throughout the day to determine the activity patterns of visiting doves.

Before the dove hunter was back in position, someone called “Birds!” again. He dropped to a squat as five doves winged by out of range. One dove hunter had already downed two. The rest skedaddled for safer air space.

Two veered his way. He shot twice and missed. Another dove hunter lowered the boom on one; the other hugged the ground as it rocketed out of the field. He pulled three shells from his second box and pushed them into the belly of his gun.

This all started with a phone call to see if a couple of dove hunters wanted to get together for a September dove hunting trip. The season opened earlier that week, and while scouting, one dove hunter had located a dove-hunting hotspot.

Before the season opens, it pays to scout your hunting area, looking for heavily-used flyways doves travel when moving from one activity area to another. Doves usually fly from night roosts to watering holes shortly after dawn, then quickly move to feeding areas where they stay until midday. They loaf at perching, watering or graveling sites near the feeding area for an hour or two around noon, then return to the feeding area for the remainder of the afternoon. Before going to roost, they stop to drink again. By determining the exact time and locale of these activities, you can ascertain the best place and time to dove hunt a particular site.

successful dove hunting
Scouting can help dove hunters pinpoint a productive dove hunting site. Positioning yourself beneath active dove flyways is the key to successful dove hunting.

To determine dove patterns, drive slowly through a likely area, stopping occasionally to scan the countryside with binoculars. Scout before 9 a.m. or after 3 p.m. when birds are more likely to be moving. Watch for doves in the air and on the ground, then stop and scan the spot for 15 to 30 minutes. If more birds follow, you’ve found a potential dove hunting site.

Most aficionados dove hunt feeding areas, usually fields of harvested seed crops like milo, sunflowers, sorghum, corn or wheat. Additional scouting when you have zeroed in on such a field can improve your dove score tremendously.

Try to determine when doves enter and exit the field, and examine each locale thoroughly, looking for different types of “structure” to which doves orient. A dip in the perimeter timber of a field may be a well-used travel lane. Field corners may funnel doves in and out of a field. Open mid-field humps may be preferred feeding sites as they provide a better view of approaching danger. Doves often light on dead snags or power lines before landing or while loafing. Points, ditches, borders between stubble and plowed ground, fence and tree lines, tall trees, waterholes and other structure all serve as reference points for flying doves. If your scouting indicates numerous doves are flying near such spots, you’ve found a place to take your stand.

Shooting doves as they come to water also offers fast action. And last September while hunting a small farm pond this dove hunter got a taste of that action.

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