Every fall dove season opens and hunters flock to private and public dove fields.  Even though the season usually runs until the end of October the prime time is the first two or three weeks.  Doves migrate and many of them are long gone from the public hunting areas after a cold snap or just a few days of shooting.

Many of the good public hunting areas are heavily populated by hunters who do a lot of shooting that is often nothing more than sky busting.  The result is that the birds quickly realize that man and his trappings are a danger to them.  But there are ways the smart hunter can still have good shooting.

The hunter who makes no effort to conceal himself or to remain still will not get any shots within range.  Concealment is probably the best tool the hunter has to fool migrating birds.  The use of camouflage clothing should be patterned to the surroundings in which the hunter is sitting.  If one plans to sit in a wheat or soybean field then the lighter color clothing is in order.  If he is sitting in a hedgerow or predominantly green brushy area then something in green is better.

It is important that all shiny surfaces, such as guns, buckets and coolers are camouflaged.  If wearing glasses the use of a headnet helps to cut the glare off the lenses.  Another way around that glare problem is to hunt only on cloudy days or to sit with your back to the sun.

Although the weather is warm during the first part of dove season, it is important to cover all exposed skin and any jewelry such as wedding rings and watches.

If using decoys on crowded public land think about your own safety.  All too often an unthinking hunter takes a shot at a decoy not realizing that it is a decoy.  It is advisable to place decoys about eight to 10 feet off the ground in the branches of trees or shrubs.  Be sure they are visible to birds approaching the grain field in which you are hunting.  Remember to a dove the sight of other doves represents safety.  This is demonstrated by reports of doves landing between the decoys and being quite at home.

While on the subject of safety there are some common sense things that will insure the hunt is a safe one.

Do not load your gun until you are at your assigned shooting station and shooting hours have begun.  Keep the action open.  Once shooting has begun keep your gun on safety until you are ready to shoot.  Always point your gun in a safe direction.  When shooting, do not over swing so that you are pointing toward another hunter.  Know where the other hunters are located.

Once a bird is downed is the only time to leave your assigned station.  If possible use a dog to retrieve birds.  Be sure to keep an eye on downed birds so you can find them and return to your shooting station quickly.  Do not take your gun with you as you go out to retrieve downed birds.  Unload it and carefully place it on the ground.  Unload as well and keep the action open when you are leaving your station.

Doves provide a great challenge. Their erratic flight provides a challenging target.  They provide an opportunity to sharpen aerial shooting skills in anticipation of waterfowl shooting for later in the season.  But, safety must be a consideration when hunting in a crowded situation like that found in the first couple of days on public hunting fields.



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