Dove hunting is here — almost
Dove hunting is right upon us. If you’ve never dove hunted, you are missing out on a great bird hunt plus some great eating. I’ve dove hunted since I was 6 years old. We had great hunts as a kid; speaking of, it’s a great hunt to take your kids on to introduce them to hunting.
What’s not to like about it? The weather is warm, you don’t have to be stealthy and quiet like when big game hunting, and there is a lot of shooting going on. Sounds like the ingredients for a great day to me.
So how do you dove hunt? Scouting is important. Doves do well with agriculture so the first obvious spots to check are milo fields or sunflower patches. If you see a lot flying around or setting in dead trees and on telephone lines stop and ask for permission to hunt.
You’ll want to set along tree lines or fence rows. They have what I’ll called preferred flyways. If you’re not getting any shooting, move. If they’re out feeding, go do some jump shooting. If you have other people with you, this will get them moving around and help them out, too.
Especially on dry years, but any year really, hunt near water sources. They like to water at ponds, sloughs and slow-moving creeks and rivers. We hunt these at daylight and dark. I’ve had some great hunts on water sources.
I’ve dove hunted in multiple states but probably my most unique spot to ever hunt doves was in Nebraska. The marijuana fields were great. They love the seeds. It grew wild there and there’d be 20-foot-wide by 100-yard patches in draws. There’s be hundreds of doves feeding in them. It seemed to make them stupid and sometimes they’d fly right up and land in front of you waiting to be shot. Let that be a lesson for you. Do marijuana, and you’ll do stupid stuff.
So you’re convinced. You’re ready to jump in. So what gear do you need? It’s really pretty simple. Because of the high-speed shooting, you’ll want a shell vest with a game pouch in back. On 90 percent of your dove hunts, you’ll be sitting in one spot, so really the game pouch is used to carry boxes of shells. You’ll want a vest with plenty of shell-holding capabilities on front and two lower pockets to fill with shells.
Using decoys will definitely help you out. There are a few options for decoys. Mojo makes a decoy with rotating wings and a Dove A Flicker decoy. There are also plastic decoys that you can clip onto fence lines or tree branches. Decoys will help.
For a shotgun, any style will work but you’ll be happier with a semi-automatic. For decades as a kid, I used a double-barrel but if you have a semi-automatic you’ll have plenty of opportunities to get off three shots, especially if you shoot like I do. Remember: You have to have a plug because you’re limited to three shots.
For ammo, Aquila low-base 8s are the ticket but many hunters use 7 ½s. Luckily, they’re not hard to kill so low-base shells work great. If not, because of all of the shooting, your shoulder would be black and blue. As kids, my brother and I once shot more than a case of shells in two afternoons and that’s when there were 20 boxes in a case.
A chair is almost a necessity and especially if you’re older. There are a lot of options on the market. They offer actual fold-up chairs but another popular option are the padded swivel top 5-gallon buckets. Many have a canvas pouch around them to hold shells as well as inside. That about sums up the gear.
We don’t have room to go into good dove recipes, so I’m going to refer you to a cooking recipe my brother did since he’s a better cook than me anyway: ronspomeroutdoors.com/blog/dove-dinner.
Tom Claycomb lives in Idaho and has outdoors columns in newspapers in Alaska, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Colorado and Louisiana. He also writes for various outdoors magazines and teaches outdoors seminars at stores like Cabela’s, Sportsman’s Warehouse and Bass Pro Shop.