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Dove Hunting Guide

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Hunting For Doves

Mourning Dove On BranchThe dove shoot marks the beginning of hunting season here in the south and around the USA. Dove hunting is one of the simplest bird hunting sports. All you need are the proper licenses, a shotgun, and a place to hunt. A lot less hassle than the waterfowl or deer hunting sport, dove hunting does require that you have good shooting skills. Dove are very adept at flying and you may get a lead on a dove and have the bird drop 3 feet in a split second.

Hunting for doves is a challenging sport in that it is not as easy as you would think to shoot a dove. It is recommended that you practice skeet shooting before dove hunting as the dove can be an elusive prey. Hunting for doves takes place in the USA in September or the fall of the year. We will cover the following elements of the dove hunt:

The Dove Hunt - How To Hunt Dove From Huntland.com

How And Where to Find Dove To Hunt

Know Dove Traits and HabitsDoves in the Sky

Doves are generally found in areas in which there are a lot of trees, a water source, a food source, a graveling spot and a place to roost. Please read on for a better understanding of the dove and it's way of life.

Dove eat seeds from crops such as wheat, sunflowers, millet any almost any seed producing grain crop. Doves also eat seeds from many different types of weeds. These seeds are consumed on bare ground if possible as dove have legs that are not all that strong. Doves have trouble scratching for food through ground covers or plants.

Doves consume grit (graveling) to help them digest the seeds that they eat. This grit is found in sand bars, dirt roads, gravel pits, and so forth. Doves usually gravel during midday and for an hour or two after midday.

Dove can be found around watering holes right after dawn and before they go back to roost around dusk. These watering spots generally are near the dove's roost and usually are an open area of water with banks free of vegetation. Although dove are not above flying a few miles from a watering hole to a feeding spot.

During the day, after watering, dove feed until about midday, then they hang out at just perching on power lines or their roost, graveling, or at watering sites near the feeding area for an hour or two. Next they go back to feed for the rest of the afternoon. Then before going to roost again, the dove will water at a nearby stream, pond or mud hole.

Scouting A Place To Dove Hunt

After reading the above habit of doves, you should have a general idea of where and when to look for them at their "spots". A good idea would be to start scouting for your doves before hunting season begins. Doves are creatures of habit and can be patterned like any other migratory bird and they usually will use the same areas until they migrate.

A pair of binoculars and some time before 9 am or after 3 pm and the dove scout is on. We know that doves can be found at the following places:

  • Along Trees and Power Lines
  • Fields - Especially just harvested grain fields
  • Watering Holes
  • Graveling SitesHunter At A Dove Shoot In Field

By scouting the areas mentioned above you are likely to find a band of dove. If you watch this group of dove you will find all of their spots and be able to choose when and where to hunt them.

The Dove Field Hunt

Of course there are sweet spots that have all of the criteria for dove to hang out at and these would be newly harvested fields of grain crops. These areas should be scouted as to when and where the dove are entering and exiting. You should look for areas such as ditches, field humps, borders between plowed ground and see if the dove fly over these areas. If so then you know where to place yourself for the hunt.

A field hunt generally takes a few people to keep the dove stirred up and flying. Remember that hunting pressure for more than a day or so will make the dove leave the area. 

Please note that there are strict federal laws about hunting over baited fields. You should read up on what is considered a baited field before you hunt a field.

Guns And Ammunition On A Dove Hunt - Huntland.com

The Proper Gun and Loads To Hunt Dove

Most people hunt dove with a shotgun of 20, 16 or 12gauge that is also an autoloader.  The autoloader is limited (gun is plugged) by federal law to 3 shots. A pump or other shotgun will work fine but remember that are adept at flying and being able to get off three shots may make the difference on whether you hit a dove in the air.

The proper load of your shells for hunting doves is between 71/2 to 9 which are smaller shot sizes but remember it only takes a few pellets to bring a dove down. Also there are more pellets per load on the smaller shot sizes.

Some people spend a little extra and buy target shells as those used for skeet practice. They say that these shells, although they cost a little more, are manufactured to better standards and may improve your dove shots.

Remember it is not unusual to go through quite a few boxes of shells while dove hunting. Doves are not easy to hit and prior target practice, such as skeet shooting, is recommended.

How To Conceal Yourself And Use Decoys On A Dove Hunt

Camouflage, Blinds, Decoys For Dove Hunting

As with most wildlife, dove have sharp eyes when it comes to spotting hunters.Hunter Behind a Blind of Bushes  When hunting dove, you should where camouflage that closely matches your surroundings. You also want to camouflage your gun with camo tape and wear a camo net or paint on your face.

A blind can conceal your location to incoming doves. You can build your own blind out of materials that are in the area you wish to hunt. For instance you may build a blind out of brush or old corn stalks.

Using Dove Decoys

Doves, like other birds, are attracted to more doves and this is where the dove decoy becomes a useful hunting tool. You may purchase decoys here online, we have provided some choices from Amazon below, or in sports and hunting stores.

Dove decoys should be placed near where you are hiding to get dove to fly close in by you. You can also place dove decoys on a fence about a foot apart on the top strand. Dove decoys can be placed as high as you can get them into trees but back from the tips of branches a bit. Note place all decoys facing into the wind as that is how doves take off and land.

Dove decoys may also be placed at dove watering spots. I have heard of hunters taking large branches and sticking them into the ground. You could use the tree decoy from Amazon below here for this type of setup. They then place full body dove decoys high on these branches and sit back and wait for the dove to come flying in for water.

Shooting And Retrieving Dove - Huntland.com

Tips On Shooting And Retrieving Doves

Here are a few more tips on shooting dove:

  1. Pick A Stand That Will Allow Dove To Come Within 25 to 35 Yards of You
  2. Be Sure and remain still until a dove is within your range.
  3. When you shoot, shoulder your gun quickly, keep your head on the stock, swing through the dove, pull the trigger and follow through with the shotgun swing all in one continuous movement. Practice make this easier.
  4. Always take plenty of shotgun shells with you, more than you think you need. Doves are very evasive and adept flyers. Studies say that dove hunters average 3 birds per 25 shots.

How Not To Loose Shot Doves

It is very easy to loose a dove after you have shot it, especially in tall vegetation. The scenario goes like this you shoot the first dove and another flies into range and you shoot at it forgetting where the first dove landed.

The best way to handle this is to keep your eyes on the first dove you shot, watch where it falls and no matter how many are in the air keep your eyes on the shot dove and go and pick it up. Now you can look up and start shooting at the dove flying over.

I have seen people who had Labradors or Retrievers trained to pick up their birds when they shoot them. This of course negates the above statement, if you have a retriever to go get your downed dove for you.

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