For bird hunters doves are the first of the fall hunTs

Rocketing out of control, the dove swoops into the pond before he is met with a load of steel from a shotgun. He helicopters down into the pond and lays motionless on the surface. The first game bird of fall had been taken.

The key to finding doves is three things: habitat, water, and structure. Doves are a beautiful little bird with a plaintive call and whistling wings. Finding them in huntable numbers requires some preseason scouting.

Doves require drinking water daily. They obtain it from lakes, streams or ponds. Although they can survive with a once-a-day drink usually they will visit water in both the morning and afternoon.

Their diet consists of seeds and waste grains. Doves are not equipped for scratching and scrounging for hidden food sources. Instead they prefer seeds and grains on relatively bare ground.

It is the responsibility of every hunter to be positive that he is not hunting over illegally baited ground. Key to determining whether or not a field is legal is whether established agricultural practices have been employed. If the grains have been planted and harvested in a normal manner it is legal to hunt. If grain has been poured on the ground in large piles then it is an illegally baited field.

If grain is left over from harvesting it is OK. If it has been added it is not OK to hunt that field. If in doubt leave the field. No dove is worth the fines involved.

Doves will usually feed after they arise at sunrise. After several hours of feeding, they tend to move to water for a drink. That is followed by loafing in trees, hedgerows or woods until mid-afternoon. They then feed again until sunset. After a drink of water the birds roost in trees for the night. If you can find a location with all of these elements it is dove hunting heaven.

The most productive way of hunting doves is at the feeding and watering areas. The birds tend to use the same flight path to and from such desirable locations. Setting up in a concealed spot along these flight paths hunters take advantage of the habits of the dove. Some hunters build light blinds. But, sitting in any type of cover also works.

A bucket and cushion are good for a movable stand. If birds are coming in out of range the bucket can be quickly moved to a better location. It also doubles as a cooler to hold soft drinks, snacks, water and doves.

Dark or camouflage clothing is recommended. A good pair of sunglasses helps save your eyes on bright days. A few decoys can be placed in the open branches of nearby trees.

Doves prefer exposed dead limbs, wires and poles for roosting and resting locations. A big old dead cottonwood on the edge of a grain field or creek is ideal. Often they alight there and survey a field before flying down to feed.

The secrets to hunting success in a dove field are: water, grain and weed seeds, scattered legally on the ground, and structure in the form of trees, poles and wires on which to sit. Find all of these elements and shoot straight and you will be successful.



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