Far be it for me to hurry summer along but Dove season is almost here. The weather is always warm and the social aspect, shooting and eating are fun. Here are eight tips to think about before opening day.
Find a Field : If you planned ahead in the spring and planted sunflowers, corn, or sorghum on your property, this step may be as easy as stepping out the backdoor. However, if you don’t own land or don’t manage it specifically for doves you should start your search for your opening day hunting location now.
Drive country roads and look for a combination of food, power-lines, roosting trees, and a water source, then start knocking on doors. It’s often easier to gain permission to hunt doves than big game. Be persistent and don’t get discouraged if you get turned down and you’ll find a field to hunt.
Get Your Shooting in Shape : Don’t let opening day be the first time you pull your shotgun out of the gun case. Load that sucker up for a round of sporting clays and bring back your muscle memory so when those fast flying crossers go darting by, you’re ready to bring them to the ground.
The preseason is also the perfect time to pattern any new loads you are thinking of using in the upcoming season. Putting some shots on paper could be the difference between a great day afield and a so-so one.
Ammo: This is a common mistake for dove hunters, especially beginners facing the overwhelming choice of shot available for dove hunting. Every hunter has their preference, but for a good middle ground I would recommend a number 7 ½ or number 8 shot in 1 1/8 ounces.
Take your ammo to the range and see what best works for you, and if you’re running a semi-automatic shotgun, ensure that your gun ejects what you put in it easily. And while this should go without saying, make sure you’re picking up your spent shells as you go along.
Gun Safety : I know all hunters are reminded of this all the time, but one more time won’t hurt if it keeps from hurting you. In the madness of opening season and the erratic flight of doves, it’s unfortunately too easy to get tunnel vision and pop off a shot in the wrong direction.
Always be aware of your surroundings, and keep your shots as high as possible. While “snap-shooting” makes up a large portion of dove hunting, stay committed to keeping your safety on while waiting for an overpass and immediately flicking it back on after your shot. Retaking a firearm safety class is never a bad idea.
Make a Bucket List A five gallon bucket is a great dove hunting accessory. Camouflage it, add a seat cushion, and sit in comfort while waiting on doves. The really beautiful thing is that it doubles as a storage container for all your gear.
Make a list of what you’ll need and fill your bucket with shells, sunscreen, insect repellant, food, and water. You’ll be comfortable and well fed on opening day.
Get Your License Most hunters know that they need a state specific hunting license before they start shooting doves. However, some forget that doves are classified as a migratory bird. Hunters who want to chase these early season targets also need a migratory bird license from the state they are hunting.
Besides keeping you legal, purchasing a migratory bird stamp helps fund the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Commission’s efforts to manage and track migratory birds to ensure responsible harvests of this wildlife resource.
Call Some Buddies Unlike some hunting activities, where solitude is the goal, dove hunting is a highly social event. Call some buddies and post shooters in different locations to keep the birds moving. It’s great to have some friends there to witness your expert shooting prowess or even to rib you when you miss.
Know the locations of your fellow hunters and practice proper gun safety and your sure to have a great time in the dove field.
Learn How to Clean a Dove : Granted this is a hard thing to learn without an actual dove in your hand, but it’s better to be prepared ahead of time then to learn on your own with several dove sitting in your cooler.
There’s some great online guides to help you with this. Also be sure to know how to preserve or marinate your dove breast filets and have a great recipe at the ready, like our grilled jalapeno dove hors d’oeuvres.
Fire Up the Grill What doves lack in size they make up for in flavor. There is no better way to end a day of dove hunting than to cook up all those tasty little birds you and your buddies have collected.
Plan your menu ahead of time and have seasonings, sides, and cooking utensils ready. Take the edge off with some bacon wrapped dove poppers while preparing a more elaborate main course. Add a glass of red wine and sit down with your buddies to recap the day’s hunt while you enjoy its culinary rewards.
Dove season is right around the corner. Will you be ready?