Dove Hunting Tips

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dove hunting
Small ponds with bare edges can provide fast shooting for doves that come to water early and late in the day.

Scouting Doves

Determining the exact time and locale of these dove activities allows you to ascertain the best time and place to dove hunt a particular site. Do this by scouting doves prior to each dove hunt.

Begin by scanning a likely site with binoculars. Scout before 9 a.m. or after 3 p.m. when birds are more likely to be moving. When you see doves, watch for several minutes. If more doves follow, you've found a potential dove hunting site.

Most dove aficionados dove hunt fields of just-harvested grain crops. When scouting these, try to determine when doves are entering and exiting, and examine each locale for types of "structure" doves orient to when flying. A dip in perimeter timber may be a well-used travel lane. Field corners often funnel doves in and out. Open mid-field humps are preferred feeding sites because they provide a better view of approaching danger. Doves often light on snags or power lines before landing or while loafing. Points, ditches, borders between stubble and plowed ground, fence and tree lines, tall trees and other structure serve as reference points for flying doves, as well. If scouting reveals numerous doves flying near such spots, you've found a place to make your stand.

Remember, too, that feeding field hunts usually are best when enough dove hunters are present to keep doves stirred up and flying. Birds may move to new locales, however, if dove hunting pressure is heavy for more than a day or so. Observing dove hunting activity may thus prove useful in your search for a good shooting area.

Watering sites are another key feature of dove hot spots. Doves generally drink at muddy ponds, seeps, mud holes and stream banks with edges free of tall vegetation. Water bodies with a wide swath of open mud along shore are ideal, especially when near roosts or feeding areas.

Don’t overlook graveling sites, either. Doves consume grit to help the gizzard grind seeds they eat. Rural roads, sand bars, gravel quarries and other graveling spots close to feeding, watering and roosting sites make an area more attractive to doves, and if your scouting reveals dove activity patterns, these areas can provide alternative dove hunting sites during midday when doves aren't feeding in fields.

Doves activity patterns may change due to adverse weather conditions, changes in feeding field conditions and other factors. To have the best dove hunt possible, identify several potential dove hunting sites. Visit them often. Watch doves throughout the day to determine when and where they're flying.

shooting doves 
Gravel quarries provide water and grit for doves. Placing a few decoys around the water’s edge helps bring doves closer for easier shots.

Shooting Doves

Regardless of when or where you hunt doves, remember these tips for success.

First, pick a good stand and allow doves to come within 25 to 35 yards before shooting. At this range, you’ll probably shoot more accurately, and use fewer shells. And you can use lighter loads with adequate killing power without bruising your shoulder and flinching.

Remain motionless until an incoming dove is within your practiced shooting range. Doves will spook as soon as they spot you, but if your timing is right, you’ll manage one or two shots before they zip out of range.

When shooting, shoulder your gun quickly, keep your head on the stock, swing through the dove, pull the trigger and follow through with the shotgun swing in one smooth, continuous movement. Practice makes perfect. Visit a shooting range as often as possible to hone your skills.

Finally, always take more shotshells than you think you’ll need. Even when you’re certain you’re Deadeye Dick, doves can prove you wrong. Studies indicate dove hunters average about three birds bagged per 25 shots.

Go Get ‘Em!

Now that you’ve completed Dove Hunting 101, it’s time to get in the field and start scouting doves. Employ the dove hunting tips and tactics you’ve learned here, and you’re sure to enjoy the exciting, fast-paced wingshooting provided by America’s favorite game birds.

Good hunting!

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