Yamaha Outdoors Tips — Dove Hunting Basics

Dove hunting, full of fast-paced shooting and ultimately good eating, is a great way to begin the early-season before other opportunities arrive. Courtesy photo SCDNR

By Steve Hickoff

Dove hunting is a shooter’s dream (lots of moving birds) and ultimate early season challenge (occasional or frequent misses) as gunners post up with water coolers full of soft drinks (doubling as seats), and several boxes of shells to usher in the start of wingshooting around the country — assuming of course this quarry isn’t declared a songbird where you live. Check those regulations. In many more places, it’s a twisting, turning, evasive game species in flight. 

Why are mourning doves — named so for their “mournful” coo, coo, coo call, and the prominent species we’re discussing here — so much fun and frustrating at the same time?

They fly to 40 miles per hour, and with a stiff September tail wind can wing it even faster.

They’re slim as a squirrel but with wings, and tempt you with their numbers. Pick out one for the best success. Don’t be tempted to pepper many. Chances are you’ll miss. 

They’re migratory, so shooting numbers can vary. The shift is erratic (much like woodcock for instance).

They breed across the United States. It’s almost impossible to pick out a male from a female in flight, so “either-sex” birds are taken — for the record, males have an iridescent shine on their necks; females are a bit smaller, duller in color. Try nailing that difference out in flight and you’ve got better eyes than I do.

Early season, as with many species, is the prime time to get on them. Local birds are what you’ll likely get into first while sitting on the edge of grainfields, cornfields, near watering holes and the like. 

They’re delicious on the supper table, which is but another reason to sweat out early-season days. 

Here are some other tips for making your dove hunts fun and fruitful:

Doves hit food sources hard in the morning. They tend to loaf in midday. After this siesta, they’ll start trickling back to fields by mid-afternoon. They haunt water sources, then roost. Stage your hunt along this pattern. 

Tote a folding chair (or that icy cooler which can also hold birds you take), boxes of shells (no. 7-1/2s or 8s), and shotgun (12 or 20 gauge) to a treeline or even irrigation ditch. Finding shade is a factor for both concealment and comfort. A Yamaha ATV or Side-by-Side will always help lug your gear to where you want to be. Some shooters even use dove decoys to enhance the setup. Many wear camouflage too.

Dove hunting is a social event in many places, and a way to get the season rolling. Check your current regulations for the upcoming opening day.