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Dove hunting is quite difficult compared to other wing-shooting birds. Doves are small and fast animals, and it can be hard to consistently take them down. However, anyone can learn how to dove hunt with a bit of practice. These dove hunting tips can help anyone improve their chances the next fall dove season.
Why Should You Try Dove Hunting?
Dove hunting can be an incredibly exciting activity. Hunting them is challenging, and even a skilled hunter can empty a box of shells without taking down a single bird on a bad day. There’s something exciting about hunting a bird that is so fast and can change direction at any moment.
Also, dove meat has an amazing flavor, and there’s plenty of ways to cook them. Whether you grill them whole or smoke the breasts, it’s a delicious and tender meat that melts in your mouth.
Due to the abundant dove populations, easy accessibility, and high volume shooting, doves are typically hunted by casual hunters and offer a great gateway animal to introduce a youngster to the sport.
What’s Different About Dove Hunting
As with most bird hunting, it’s essential to be familiar with a shotgun and knowing how to shoot at flying targets. Hunting birds is different from hunting other non-flying animals because you need to aim and shoot a lot faster. Also, the shooting technique is a bit different because you need to consider the bird’s trajectory. On the positive side, dove fields usually offer a good deal of shot opportunities.
Essential Dove Hunting Tips
Following these dove hunting tips can help you make the best out of the next dove hunting season. From choosing the right shooting material and technique to ensuring that you have adequate hydration and clothing, several aspects of dove hunting can be overlooked but are extremely important.
Practice Before the Season
If you are new to hunting, practicing in the off-season can give you an edge over other hunters in the field. As with anything, practice is one of the fundamental things you can do to improve your dove hunting skills. Shooting some sporting clays is an excellent way to get comfortable shooting fast-moving targets.
Open The Choke
A recommendation pros often give new dove hunters is to use an improved cylinder or modified choke for a wider spread. Using a choke that’s too tight for dove hunting makes it a lot harder to hit the target. Also, if you hit the dove, you will almost destroy the edible meat because all the pellets are concentrated in a small area.
Pick the right Shotgun Shells
Most dove hunters use seven and a half or eight shotgun shells. However, there are so many pellets in those shells that they will destroy the dove at close range. At a longer distance, the pellets lose energy quickly. Use 4s, 5s, or 6s for shells; they provide a dense pattern without losing power at a longer range.
Extend Your Lead
When you shoot a flying dove, one of the most essential things is to exaggerate your lead. Most doves cross in front of you as they flee, giving you the perfect opportunity to take a shot. Aim at the dove and then exaggerate the lead by at least 6 feet. Moving your barrel by about 1” roughly equals about 1 foot of lead distance.
Wear Eye and Ear Protection
Make sure you wear the necessary ear and eye protection during dove hunting. You need shooting glasses to protect your eyes and also be able to see the doves. Pale yellow, light bronze, or rose-colored glasses are the best for dove hunting.
A shotgun shot too close to your ear can easily damage your eardrum. There are a number of earplugs available on the market for hunters. You’ll meet hunters that don’t wear earplugs because they want to be able to hear people shouting when there are doves in sight. However, all audiologists say the sound of a shotgun requires earplugs.
Doves have very good eyesight, so it’s important to avoid bright colors or anything that makes you stick out from the ground. Camo clothing is ideal as long as it is the right pattern for the habitat you are hunting. You can also set up a hunting blind; mirror blinds are ideal as the open top allows you to take down birds flying overhead.
Watch Out For Snakes
In many areas of the country, snakes abound in dove hunting fields during hunting season. If you hunt in an area with many snakes, you should wear snake protective boots and long socks. A snake bite can ruin a great weekend, and it’s important to be careful.
With dove hunting, you usually spend a lot of time sitting and waiting for doves to fly off a field. Especially in hot southern areas, it’s essential to bring enough water to stay hydrated to avoid potential health complications. Consider bringing a hydration pack rather than bulky water bottles.
Pick a Bird
If the doves approach you as a flock, you might be tempted to start shooting at different doves, hoping to increase your odds. It’s more effective to focus on one bird and keep shooting until you hit it.
Know Where to Look
Doing a bit of research on where to find doves goes a long way for dove hunting. In the fall, doves are heavy feeders, and they seem to prefer freshly cut grain fields. Finding farms that are in the process of harvesting fields can be a great option since the cut areas provide food for the doves and the standing crops provide cover.
Doves need water and grit, so any place where they can find these two elements is great for dove hunting. Doves need grit because their digestive system needs to break down the hard seeds that form the basis of their diet. Dirt or gravel farm lines are a good source of grit for doves.
Try Using Decoys
Decoys aren’t necessary for dove hunting, but they can help you draw the attention of doves and get closer and easier shots. Spinning-wing dove decoys are also a good option, but you have to make sure they are legal in your area.
Practice Shooting While Sitting
Most people sit down while waiting for doves to appear. It’s a good way to relax and talk with friends and family. However, you should be ready to shoot as soon as doves fly off a field. Shooting while sitting down is possible, and it’s an effective way to shoot quickly at flying doves.
Challenge Yourself With a Dove Hunt
Dove hunting isn’t the easiest type of hunting, but it’s an exciting way to spend a day with friends or family. However, you need to have the right shotgun shells, concealment methods, and plenty of patience to boost your chances of bagging a bird or two.