By Mark Fike
We recently had a fine primer for dove hunters in the desert done by Jessica Manuell here:
Given that dove season starts in just a few weeks, it is a great time to review some tried and true tips for dove hunting.
As Jessica mentioned in her story, Yuma, Arizona is the unofficial dove flyway in the U.S. I cut my teeth on dove hunting there myself while stationed in Yuma as a U.S. Marine. The dove hunting is incredible, and limiting out and making it to work on time is a real possibility.
So, what about the rest of us that do not live in Yuma or an area flush with birds? The answer is that we have to make each and every shot count and we have to make our chances as good as we can to bag a bird. Here are some tips I learned while hunting doves from Arizona all the way to Virginia.
It goes without saying that scouting is key. But, how many people really scout? Try it if you have not and you will save yourself a LOT of hot, sweaty hours because you will not only know where the birds are feeding, but what time and from which direction they fly.
2—Have several backup locations
Many people have one spot picked out, but when fifty hunters hit that spot, activity is over and the birds move elsewhere. Have an “elsewhere spot.”
It is true that you can harvest doves wearing blue jeans or shorts that are not camo. I have done it a bunch of times. But you cannot move! If you move, the game is up. So, having concealment is a big plus. That allows you to shift your stance, fidget, get a drink of water, wipe your brow, text your spouse or pet the dog. Hedgerows, a thick canopy tree or even just a piece of material held up with stakes you are sitting behind is a huge help.
4—Know when to move on
Know when to pick up and hit your secondary and third locations. These spots don’t have to be ag fields but they can be. I have hunted strips of pines that were near ag fields with great success first thing in the morning. The doves roost in thick trees and they will pass over certain areas on their way to the feeding grounds. Know where those places are and move to them when the action slows in the field.
5—Use terrain to your advantage
I have watched more than a few hunters that have used terrain to conceal themselves while taking advantage of the flight paths of doves that were veering away from other hunters. Setting up on low drainages that take birds out of all the shot clouds but to a row of trees is a great place to set up. Doves
key in on landmarks. Tall trees that are somewhat bare are a magnet for birds to roost in even for a few minutes. Park near such a feature or a line of trees leading to it and watch your shot opportunities go up.
6—Hold your fire!
Hold your fire until the very last second before you move to shoot. Doves see movement and after the opening salvo, they are super skittish and can veer out of the way in milliseconds. The closer they are to you when you move to shoot, the better chance you have to make the shot.
7—Use a dog when possible
If it is not too hot, take a retriever with you to find doves. Knocking down doves in cornfields, soybean fields or sunflower fields can be easy, but sometimes finding the birds is not so easy. A dog greatly increases your chance that you will recover your birds. Just be sure to keep the dog hydrated and set up in the shade somewhere.