Dove Hunting Tips

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dove hunting tips
Watching dove activities in a field prior to picking a stand can help you pinpoint the best spot in a field to good shots at passing or incoming doves.

Dove Hunting Basics

Nothing says it’s time to begin hunting season like a good dove shoot. When the birds and the lead are flying, there’s nothing quite like it.

Although dove hunting is one of the simplest forms of recreation available to wingshooters, getting starting can seem complicated for beginners. It shouldn’t be. Besides your hunting license and HIP permit, all you really need to enjoy this great sport is a shotgun, some shotgun shells and a place to hunt. The following guide to dove hunting basics is sure to help as well.

Dove Hunting Guns and Loads

dove hunting shotgun
Dove hunting requires very little in the way of equipment. A dove hunting shotgun and shells are all the dove hunter really needs.

When selecting a dove hunting shotgun, you can go as plain or fancy as your budget allows. A good all-round choice is a 20-, 16- or 12-gauge autoloader with screw-in choke tubes. Pumps, double-barrels and over-and-unders work fine, but because doves are fast and difficult to hit, many dove hunters prefer autoloaders, which allow three quick shots before a bird gets out of range. Always remember, however, that repeating dove hunting shotguns must be limited to holding only three shells (“plugged”) while dove hunting. Federal regulations require it. (Be sure you understand all dove-specific hunting regulations, particularly baiting laws, to avoid unintentional violations.)

Stick to smaller shot sizes--7-1/2, 8 or 9. It takes only a few small pellets to down a dove, and smaller shot sizes offer more pellets per charge. For instance, an ounce of No. 8 shot has 186 more pellets than an ounce of No. 6.

Perhaps the best all-round shotshell is a 1- or 1-1/8-ounce load of 7-1/2s, 8s or 9s. Heavier loads allow somewhat longer shots, but you may go through several boxes of shotshells during a single hunt. Your accuracy could suffer if you start flinching due to a sore shoulder.

Consider spending a little extra for target loads such as those used by skeet and trap shooters. These tend to be manufactured to more stringent standards, and that edge may improve your shooting percentage.


Doves use keen eyes from high vantage points to spot dove hunters. To help even the playing field, dove hunters must be proper concealed. Wear camo clothing matching your surroundings. Try to blend into features of the landscape—patches of standing grain missed during harvest, tree-line edges, etc. Consider fashioning a ground blind from corn stalks, brush or other local materials. Camo tape or finish on your shotgun helps hide gun movements. Camo grease paint or a mask hides the shine on your face.

mourning doves
Mourning doves feed on the ground, eating seeds of various weeds and agricultural crops.

Dove Decoys

Several dove decoys placed near your stand can entice birds to fly by at close range. You can purchase dove decoys—shell, full-body and even robo-dove decoys—from sporting-goods businesses, or create silhouettes from cardboard.

Place several dove decoys on open ground and several on nearby fences or dead trees. Fence dove decoys should be about a foot apart on the top strand of wire. Tree dove decoys should be placed as high as possible, back from the tips of limber branches. Face all dove decoys into the wind; doves take off and land into the wind.

dove decoy hunting
Mourning doves are small, fast-moving targets that are difficult to hit. Good shooters practice often before the season.

Understanding Mourning Doves

Understanding mourning dove habits will assist you in pinpointing game. Know first that doves are seed-eaters. They feed on sunflowers, corn, wheat, oats, millet and other grain crops, plus many weed seeds, from foxtail to croton. They prefer eating on bare ground because their legs aren’t strong enough to scratch through litter or long enough to clear many hurdles.

Doves usually fly from their night roost to a watering hole 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 usually go to water again.



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