The dove hunting season opener is what many of us look forward to and count as the official kickoff of wingshooting season. Yeah, we might’ve shot some trap, skeet, or five-stand, but dove season takes all of those skills and puts them on display, in the field, for real.
Oftentimes, those pursuing doves show up in the field, leave their vehicles, and make a mad dash to find a place in the shade. There’s little thought given to other components that may affect the outcomes of the hunt. Once the action kicks off, it sets in that poor choices were made, and more emphasis was placed on convenience and comfort rather than success. Hunters who find themselves in the wrong place, or even the wrong field, become frustrated while watching, or hearing, fellow dove hunters enjoying fast-paced shooting action.
Spoiler alert; your dove hunting season doesn’t have to play out like this. We’ve compiled some tips and tricks below that’ll help you set yourself up for success this dove hunting season.
When to Hunt Doves
Depending on the regulations in your area, you will probably have two primary windows for dove hunting, morning and early evening. Why on two, you ask? As with most animals, doves are most actively feeding in the early morning and early evening, making both of these times the perfect opportunity to get them on the move instead of having them hunkered down.
For early morning dove hunts, try to be the first hunter in the field. Often, other dove hunters will have scouted the same area and plan to set up in the same spot. You may have to be in place an hour before daylight to beat out your competition. Be ready for doves to start flying at first light.
Evening dove hunting can be relatively unpredictable. Doves may start feeding right at dusk, or they may start several hours before. Because of this, set up at least two to three hours before dusk to make the most out of the opportunity.
Mid-day dove hunting can be much more difficult, but other dove hunters know this as well. Most dove hunters will clear out within a few hours of dawn. This will often leave your field more open for the warmer hours if you really want to hit those first few days of dove hunting season hard.
Scouting should provide dove hunters with two or three ideal spots to set up in. For morning shoots, dove hunters should arrive prior to legal shooting time, waiting for the “magic hour” when the sun is just starting to peek up over the horizon signaling the official start to dove season.
Scout for Doves
With dove hunting, like most other pursuits, scouting is key, and for good reason. Time spent familiarizing yourself with the area and getting the lay of the land, as well as scouting flight patterns based on time of day, will pay off tenfold. Look for those special features in the landscape that affect the flight paths and patterns of doves. Know where the doves are entering and leaving or where doves concentrate in the field is absolutely vital. Showing up on a whim, without any type of preparations or plan, will ensure that the odds are stacked against those with no forethought. Don’t be that type of dove hunter.
Sit Down. Wear Camo. Avoid Movement.
The best camo patterns in the world are worthless if the dove hunters wearing them can’t keep still while dove hunting. Moving about, fidgeting, or stepping out of cover to see what’s going on will be the ultimate demise of the dove hunter.
Camouflage patterns vary by region, so what works in one geographic area won’t necessarily work in another, but that’s where your scouting efforts really start to shine. Based on the topography, terrain, and vegetation in the area you’ve scouted, you’ll know what camouflage patterns will best be suited for your needs.
Wearing the latest trend in camouflage pattern doesn’t necessarily equate to success in the field. Drab-colored shades work well in the dove fields. The idea is to mask yourself in your environment and break up any outlines that would otherwise identify you as a predator. Take note of your natural surroundings and incorporate those color choices in the camouflage patterns that you intend to wear. Doves can indeed see color and will flare when bright clothing sticks out from its surroundings.
Wearing camouflage isn’t necessarily mean to “hide you”, it’s more about breaking up your outline, but moving around will defeat that and alert the birds to change their flight path. Sit still and remain calm when doves are in view or approaching. Overexposure to hunting pressure will cause doves to become skittish on their approach and ultimately, you’ll burn your spot for at least a day, if not longer.
The fields you’ll dove hunt in typically contain certain physical boundaries, or elements, that draw in and hold birds. Things such as topographical features, contours of the land, and flight paths are all interlinked, playing off each other. There is always going to be something specific that will draw doves to a certain location, be it food, water, shelter, or shade. Capitalize on this by identifying what the doves want and where they’ll be to get it. Once again, scouting pays off tenfold here since you’ll already have experienced flight paths and you’ll have a good idea of their “schedule”.
Whether it’s the type of feed, or a nearby power line cutting across a field, or even a change in the land itself, these types of locations provide preferred options for dove hunters when setting up their spots. An often-overlooked setup location is near open areas of ground around loose gravel or grit. Doves must have gravel or grit which is essential to aid in digestion, such prime locations can act as an absolute dove magnet.
There is no other type of hunting that will hone your wingshooting ability like dove hunting. It is a great deal of fun and a stellar excuse to spend time in the filed with friends and family and enjoy the great outdoors.
As enjoyable as it may be, it can also be incredibly frustrating without the proper preparation.
The most successful dove hunters are the folks who put in the work, both prior to and during dove hunting season, and are willing to adjust based on how/where the birds are moving. Having a plan is great, but being willing to deviate from that plan when conditions or circumstance change is what sets successful dove hunters apart from the rest of the crowd.