Dove 0034Each August the temperatures of summer begin to cool in preparation for fall and the hunting seasons.  Days get shorter and the night cooler.  Doves begin to move about as the young of the year begin to build stamina for their migration south.  Doves are everywhere.  Soon so are the hunters.  Doves are the most hunted and most harvested game bird in North America.

Hunters begin to sharpen skills dulled by inactivity from a summer of fishing.  Dove season is their first opportunity to begin upland bird hunting before quail and pheasant season open.  However, dove hunting can be a humbling experience for those who have not prepared for it.

Early in the season, hunter success is good.  The opening day doves are loafers who dawdle along at half speed and are oblivious to the danger that awaits them.  A few days into the season, the same bird flies like one possessed.  He will dart and seemingly fly upside down and backwards.  There is no way to predict what he will do in the millisecond after you pull the trigger.

Additionally, doves disperse rather than bunch together after a day or two.  There are a few doves everywhere rather than many in one area.  Heavy hunting pressure and cold, wet weather will cause them to begin their southern flight.

We need to make the most of the days of hunting we have available.  All too soon hunting becomes somewhat marginal and most of us turn to other quarry.

Pre-season scouting by driving roads looking for land to hunt is highly recommended.  The land should contain food, water, grit, roosting areas, and loafing spots.  Doves require all whether local or transient.

Doves are by nature creatures of open areas where they can see the approach of danger.  Nevertheless, they seem to prefer a combination of wood lot and open land such as crop fields.  Doves are a short legged, delicate birds better built of wading through leaf litter or pasture grasses.  Cleared farmed areas with open fields and with no break in the habitat is just as poor for dove hunting as are wooded areas with no break.  What they need is a mix of the two.

Clumps of thick, brushy trees adjacent to open feeding areas are good roosting areas for the birds.  On opening day, the hunter who locates between the roosting site and a likely feeding area will find action early in the morning.  After an hour of shooting, they will take wing again as the hunter slowly advances along the edge of good feeding areas.  The birds fly from one prominent feature to another as they escape across the countryside.

Dove decoys placed in areas slightly away from cover do attract live birds.  Decoys are attached to dead limbs and any other thing that will place them about 6 feet off the ground.

By mid-day, the birds will loaf in windbreaks or any other type of tree line.  Two hunters can walk those tree lines.  When a dove spots a hunter, he will fly out the far side of the break and can be taken by the second hunter.  By mid-afternoon, doves go to water and find the sand and fine grit necessary for their gizzards.

The grit is necessary to grind seeds and other food in their crop.  Not having teeth, they cannot grind food any other way.  Good spots for hunters at this point are any areas that have water next to a find grit source.  An example might be a sand bar or gravel pit.

Fastest action of the day will probably be the last two hours before sunset.  This is the time of heavy feeding.  The birds are also moving to the roosting areas at the end of daylight.  Flight lines that roughly point from the feeding areas to roosting areas are good places to hunt.  The flight line could be a roadbed, stream course, fencerow, or tree line.  Doves have a habit of flying by or along landmarks in open country.

By moving around and knowing the land to your hunting, the dove hunter can enjoy a full day of hunting action.



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  1. Pingback: DOVES – FRUSTRATION ON THE WING | Don Gasaway's Blog

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