By Mark Fike
Dove season begins very soon and hopefully hunters have patterned their scatterguns, bought enough shells to miss their required birds to entertain friends (and still take home dinner) and gotten their license and HIP number.
Doves are said to be the species that gets the fall hunting season kicked off in high gear. Each year thousands upon thousands of shotshells are expended in attempts to bag these incredibly fast maneuvering and flying birds.
Doves are surely the hardest of all game birds to hit. Some sources say they can push the speed over 40mph! In addition to flying incredibly fast they also can jink, dive or maneuver without warning. This makes them a very challenging target requiring snappy reflexes and a good eye.
In planted fields there is often an adequate number of doves flying around. So, if you have not arranged for a place to hunt on the opener then you might want to get moving. Fields and permission slips get filled fast so hunters waiting until the last minute may end up taking spots that are out of the way with fewer birds.
There are a few things hunters can do to put the odds a little more in their favor. The first thing you have to do before going afield is scout the field. Some guys may think that is a waste of time. I disagree and with some experience going home empty-handed and my vest loaded down with unspent shells I have learned the hard way.
Like most animals, doves are creatures of habit and they also react to their environment in a predictable manner. For instance, if a dove or flock of doves has found that a farmer has just cut corn or bush hogged sunflowers in a field but a water supply or roosting area is a half mile south you can lay odds that they will fly as directly between those points as possible.
There is no need to set up on a barren field that is a mile west of the cut corn or a mile east of the roosting area unless you want to get a long nap. The doves are not going to fly there. Neither is it wise to set up on the opposite side of the cornfield from which the bulk of the doves fly from as they arrive from their watering area or roosting area.
Scouting means that you will take note of the direction the birds come from, the approximate time they arrive and depart and any nearby roosting trees, hedgerows or other cover you can employ to your advantage. Be sure you scout the field or fields during the time you plan on hunting. Birds may come and go differently depending on the time of day.
The second thing a hunter should do to ensure some meat goes home with them is to become as invisible as possible. Dove hunting is a very social sport and guys and gals like to talk and swap tales as they wait but if you really want to get your birds you need to blend in. Don’t wear a bright shirt or anything that clashes with the background. Don’t silhouette yourself either.
Sometimes I even wear a mesh mask to break up the light color of my face. Wear a hat and don’t move a lot. If there is a hedgerow be sure to cut out a spot within it for you to sit or stand and swing the gun.
Doves fly with the terrain. Although they will cross a field in the open, they won’t do so for long when the shooting starts unless there is simply a lot of food to keep them coming. Pick a spot where you can get a crack at incoming and outgoing birds along the tree line. Use a dog to get birds if you can as the doves seem to be less spooked by dogs than by humans.
Be sure to take a new hunter old or young with you. Dove hunting is usually a warm affair but social enough to entertain anyone provided some birds fly. Kids enjoy going to work the dog or be the dog. Take plenty of water and keep in mind where others are before pointing your gun. Good shooting to you!
Last week we had a great recipe from Outdoor Writer, Richard Hines. His recipe was about preparing and cooking doves Italian style. That article had my mouth watering and my trigger finger flexing to get ready for the opener this weekend.
Here is another recipe to try this season. First, take our dove stand tips and get your birds, then try Richard’s or my recipe!
Dove on the Grill
This is a simple recipe that will get a thumbs up from even your non game eating friends.
Breast out the doves by pushing your thumb under the lower sternum and pulling upward. Skin and cut off the wings and neck. You can chill the birds a day or two in the fridge to tenderize them if you want.
Wrap with one half strip of bacon around each breast. Place breast down on foil that is slicked up with a light coat of olive oil. Cut yellow sweet bell peppers and layer over the dove. Cook on medium for ten minutes and then flip the birds. Remove in five or ten minutes. You can check the birds by slicing one along the wishbone and looking for raw meat or blood. Serve with your favorite vegetable and a side of rice.