Kicking Off Another Hunting Season with a Bang: Dove Hunting
As we get into the dog days of summer the temperatures are hot and hunting has been on the back burner for a few months now. However, as the summer winds down, I am reminded that one of my favorite hunts is just around the corner. That’s right, it’s dove hunting season!
Dove hunting is a popular and cherished tradition enjoyed by many hunters across the world. This exciting sport not only offers an opportunity to connect with nature but also provides a thrilling challenge that can be enjoyed by both novices and seasoned hunters alike. If you’re a beginner looking to embark on your first dove-hunting adventure, this comprehensive dove hunting guide will equip you with the essential knowledge and techniques to get started on the right foot.
For me, dove hunting is a chance to get out in warm weather and enjoy a couple of days in the blind with my buddies. In my area of eastern Colorado, dove hunting can be very good, especially on opening day, which means lots of shots and lots of action. It is a good time to put any off-season changes into effect and get yourself ready for waterfowl season down the road.
So, what do you need to know before heading out on a dove hunt?
Understand the Species
Before heading out to the field, it’s crucial to familiarize yourself with the primary species targeted in dove hunting. Mourning doves and white-winged doves are the most common species in North America, and their behaviors and flight patterns differ, impacting your hunting strategy. Research their feeding and roosting habits to gain insights into their preferred habitats and movement patterns.
In addition to the above dove species, many areas also are home to Eurasian Collared Doves, which are considered an invasive species. This means that in most if not all states, there is no limit on these birds. This is great news for hunters because if you shoot a Collared Dove, it does not count against your limit, but the eating is just as good.
Compared to other bird species, doves love the warm, hot weather and are prone to move south quicker with a cold snap. Unfortunately, this means that, in the northern and northeast United States, if you have an unseasonably cold week before dove hunting season it can be tough to get on the birds. On the other hand, ideal dove hunting weather dictates a t-shirt and lightweight clothing unlike later season birds where you risk freezing.
Compliance and Regulations
Compliance with local hunting laws and regulations is a must for any responsible hunter. Obtain the necessary hunting permits and licenses and be aware of the specific dove hunting seasons and bag limits in your area. Familiarize yourself with any safety zones or restrictions to ensure a safe and lawful hunting experience. This is perhaps more true during dove season than others because for many hunters it is the first open season of the new hunting year so there may be rule changes or changes to land access that you need to figure out before going out again.
As noted above it also pays to know species and limits for each. You may be able to increase the overall number of birds that you take home if you bag some Eurasians in with mourning or white-winged doves.
Selecting the right gear is essential for a successful dove hunt. A reliable shotgun with a 12 or 20-gauge is most commonly used, but personal preference and experience may influence your choice. Opt for a shotgun that fits comfortably and allows for quick aiming. As for ammunition, No. 7.5 or No. 8 shot is suitable for dove hunting due to its spread pattern. Doves are small, quick birds, so going any bigger than this may cause some issues with destroying edible meat.
In many places, dove hunting can be downright hot. Having lightweight, heat and sweat-wicking clothing is a must. If you are in a blind, make sure that you have adequate ventilation to avoid overheating and to stay comfortable.
While it is important to stay cool, it is also important to protect your legs and feet from vegetation. A good sturdy, yet lightweight boot and some brush pants will do the trick.
Camouflage and Concealment
Camouflage plays a vital role in dove hunting, as these birds possess exceptional eyesight, enabling them to detect even subtle movements from a considerable distance. To effectively blend in with the surroundings and improve your chances of staying undetected, consider the following camouflage techniques:
Natural Camouflage Clothing: Invest in high-quality camouflage clothing that matches the terrain in which you’ll be hunting. Camouflage patterns designed to mimic the vegetation prevalent in your hunting area can significantly increase your stealth. Avoid wearing brightly colored clothing or patterns that stand out in the environment.
Face Paint or Camo Mask: Your face is one of the most visible parts of your body while hunting. Using face paint or a camo mask can help break up the outline of your face and reduce the chance of being spotted. Apply paint or wear the mask according to the surrounding colors, such as browns, greens, and grays.
Camo Gloves and Hat: Your hands and head are also potential giveaways in the field. Camouflage gloves and a hat can further aid in concealing these areas. A hat with a brim can also help shade your eyes and minimize glare, improving your vision.
Blending with Terrain: When setting up your hunting position, try to nestle yourself among natural cover like trees, shrubs, or tall grasses. Position yourself against a backdrop that matches your camouflage pattern, making it more challenging for doves to spot your outline.
Hunting Blinds: Using a hunting blind can provide excellent concealment, especially in open fields where natural cover is limited. Ground blinds or portable pop-up blinds offer a comfortable and effective means of hiding your presence. Ensure your blind is well-camouflaged with local vegetation and blends seamlessly with the environment.
Movement Control: Minimize unnecessary movements while in your hunting spot, as sudden motions can alert nearby doves to your presence. Slow, deliberate movements are essential to staying undetected.
Stay Downwind: Pay attention to the wind direction, as doves have an exceptional sense of smell. Position yourself downwind from your target area to avoid being detected by scent.
Remember, effective camouflage and concealment are about becoming one with your surroundings. Take your time to scout the area and adapt your camouflage to match the specific terrain and vegetation you’ll encounter during your dove hunt. The better you blend in, the higher your chances of getting within range of these birds.
Scouting is a critical aspect of dove hunting that can significantly impact your success in the field. The more you understand the habits and patterns of the doves in your hunting area, the better prepared you’ll be to position yourself strategically and increase your chances of a successful hunt. Here are some valuable tips for effective scouting and patterning:
Preseason Scouting: Begin scouting well before the hunting season starts. Visit the hunting area several times to observe the doves’ flight patterns, feeding areas, and roosting sites. Take note of their preferred food sources, such as sunflower fields, grain fields, or water sources, as these will be prime locations for dove activity.
Use Binoculars: A good pair of binoculars will help you observe doves from a distance without disturbing them. This way, you can study their behavior without alerting the birds to your presence.
Flight Patterns: Pay close attention to the doves’ flight paths during different times of the day. Notice where they fly in the morning, where they feed midday, and where they return to roost in the evening. This information will help you plan your hunt and choose the best hunting location for each part of the day.
Water Sources: Doves need regular access to water, especially in hot weather. Scouting for water sources, such as ponds, rivers, or watering holes, can lead you to productive hunting spots.
Roosting Sites: Identifying the doves’ roosting sites is essential for planning evening hunts. Doves often gather in large numbers to roost, so locating these sites can present excellent opportunities for successful hunts.
Adapt to Changing Conditions: Keep in mind that dove behavior can change due to weather conditions, food availability, and hunting pressure. Continuously update your scouting information as the hunting season progresses.
Collaborate with Local Hunters: Reach out to local hunters or hunting clubs in the area for insights and tips. Experienced hunters who know the area well can offer valuable information about dove populations and their movements.
Hunt Early Mornings and Late Afternoons
Doves are most active during the early morning and late afternoon when they are searching for food and water. Plan your hunts accordingly and be in position before the birds begin their flight. Arriving early may also give you a better selection of hunting locations as public lands may fill up with eager hunters, especially early in the season.
This hunting pattern also gives you a chance to get into the shade during the heat of the day, avoiding feeling burnt out and tired by the time the afternoon hunt rolls around. If you got a few doves on your morning hunt, this might be a great time to clean them and maybe throw a few on the grill before heading back out.
Dove hunting is a thrilling and rewarding pursuit that allows hunters to connect with nature while honing their shooting skills. By understanding dove behavior, following regulations, and employing effective hunting strategies, beginners can embark on a successful and memorable dove hunting experience. Remember, hunting is not just about the harvest; it’s about embracing the outdoors and respecting the wildlife we pursue. Enjoy the adventure and the camaraderie that comes with this cherished tradition and one of my favorite seasons!Visit our Blog HERE for MORE Good Hunting Reads!