The key to late season dove hunting seems to be habitat management. It is not like shooting on opening day when there is a lot of attractive feeding sources in grain fields as yet un-harvested.

Here in Illinois hunters focus on grain fields and watering holes. With most of the land use dominated by agriculture that makes reasonable sense.  However, this land use can include such diversity in the habitat as to involve hedgerows, prairie, riparian and upland forest, timber draws and cedar glades in addition to the cropland.

The great habitat creates a potential for good wintering habitat and hunting. However, cold weather often causes the dove population to migrate south.

Fields planted to attract the late comers usually include such grains as native sunflowers and wheat. Fields usually nonproductive become productive by planting native feed-seed mixtures.  These seeds not only attract doves but they also benefit other birds native to the area.

The Illinois dove season usually begins in early September and continues for 70 days. Often dove hunters only hunt for the first few days.  Veteran dove hunters know that with planning and luck they can often find action for the entire 70 day season.

As the daylight hours become shorter, doves tend to feed earlier until in November when they are feeding in the early afternoon shortly after 1 P.M. Hunters tend to move to the prime feeding and watering areas.  These can include those nearer buildings such as grain bins.  They seek out spilled grain from harvesting operations.  The birds prefer watering ponds with bare shores as they provide a source of grit for digestion and security from predators that might be waiting.

Although late season dove hunting can be an iffy proposition there is also the possibility of a big flock of migrating birds arriving overnight.

A 12 GA shotgun equipped with a skeet choke and loaded with No. 7 shot can knock down doves up to 40 yards away. Steel shot is federally required for hunting all migratory birds including doves.

Late season dove hunting can be frustrating in that there are usually fewer birds available. However the temperature conditions are more comfortable for the hunter and often one has the hunting area to himself.


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