Thursday, July 29, 2010

Dove Season - Successful hunts start with a plan

Dove hunting can be an extremely frustrating or successful experience.  It is a great start to get back to the outdoors and get ready for hunting season.  There is nothing like opening morning and listening for those first few shots and seeing those first few birds come racing across the field.  Although any time spent in the field is always a good time, I usually measure my experience by what I harvest or how much action I encounter.  This is why a successful hunt always starts with a plan.  In my first article of the hunting season, I gave you a few tips to get ready before dove season.  Now I would like to share with you some of my own tactics and strategies to make this dove season your most productive yet.

Scouting Fields – Dove hunters across the country all have their favorite type of field or vegetation they believe is the best.  Growing up in southeast MO, I always thought thrashed milo was the best followed by shelled corn, which was convenient because we always had some shelled corn by Sept. 1.  However when I moved up to Kansas City, all I heard was sunflowers was the best.  I don’t necessarily disagree with that, except to say I believe you have to hunt what type of vegetation is near you.  Dove will feed on what their migrating pattern provides for them.  I have seen doves over several different kinds of fields, cut wheat, field grass, watermelons and even a wood pulp plant.  Although agricultural fields are the best option, the main thing to remember is to scout them out in the evening and early morning to see where they are flying.  What you want to see if it is a  morning location, an evening location or both.

Here is an example of 80 acre field I hunt on the home farm.  You will notice that I have 3 areas I like to put my blind and decoys.  Depending on several factors I will choose a different spot for my setup.  Here are some things I look at when deciding field location.

  • Are there any high line wires?  Doves love to light on high line wires after they feed and they use them as a flight path between roosting and feeding.
  • Are there any trees surrounding the field?  Are there any breaks in the tree line? Doves roost in the trees in the evening or during mid-day after the they feed.   They also use that break in the trees to enter a field.  Doves would rather fly through a break in the trees than fly over the trees when coming in to feed.
  • What is the high point of the field or is there a ridge in the field?  Doves tend to use the contours of the field when flying though the field.
  • Is there a water source in or near the field?   Doves need water and this makes a great place to hunt in the evening or mid-morning.  However you do not need to find a big pond. Any standing water near a good feeding ground will work great.
Field Spot – So you have your field all scouted out.  Now it’s time to figure out what is the best spot in the field.  Depending on whether you have a small or large group, you can put yourself in a good opportunity to have more shots.  Taking into account breaks in the trees, which way the wind is blowing, high wires, contour of the field and location to others all will have an effect on your success.  Regardless of where your location in the field is, hunt 180 degrees in front of you.  You want to try and make sure the birds are kept in front of you when possible.  Yes, I realize that birds will come from behind you and this is where help from others comes in handy.  If everyone is spread out at least 50 yards everyone will see the birds coming and can alert everyone else. 

Above is a drawing of the field of the picture below.  This field is about 180 acres and is a great morning and evening spot.  Notice I have positioned my decoys and blind over the lower end where the the irrigation has produced standing water.  The birds will come into the field usually straight in or from my right.  In this setup, regardless of where the birds come from, they will head straight for the decoys because doves see water and other birds and they want to join in.  As for the birds coming in behind me, normally if I am still they will try and light with the decoys.  When they come over my should they usually are flying low and slow, which gives me enough time to get a shot.


Decoys and Calls – Up until about 5 years ago, the only time I used bird decoys was during duck season, however now I also use them for dove season.  For years there has always been the use of dove decoys either pinned to a limb or fence.  I never used these because I felt they provided no real value.  However now I have adapted to using Mojo Doves.  Yes the makers of the original Mojo Duck have created a dove decoy whose wings rotate just like their duck.  This provides a great attractor just like when you duck hunt.  The rotating wings attract the doves to your part of the field.  I have seen doves purposely alter their flight just to come to the decoys.  Here is how I setup with them:

First, I put them on a 10 foot, inch and half, pvc camo painted poles.  The stake the mojo doves comes with is too short.  So by putting the stake in the poles and put the poles in the ground that gets them high enough to see them from a longer distance.  I then will cut the ground end of the pole at an angle so they can dig into the ground easier.  Also, I cut the pole in half to make it easier to carry to the filed. 

Second, I put them about 20 feet apart about 30 yards out from my stand.

I now take a ground blind to the field so I am not limited to hunting right up next to trees, corn or a fence line. This allows me to conceal myself and also allows me a good chance for those birds that approach me from the back. I like a blind that is 48 inches tall and maybe 10 fee long so I can wrap it 3/4 quarters around me.

As for calls I will use one to get birds to make a pass at my decoys but I really do not call that often.

Shooting  - Finally, here a few helpful tips on helping you with your shooting.

Stay alert, pay attention, and just swivel your eyes back and forth across the horizon.  
Remember, movement is what scares birds the most so make sure you move slowly and try to avoid sudden jerky movements either while shooting or waiting for the birds to fly over.

As for your shooting form, learn to raise your gun deliberately and shoot slow.  You want to raise your gun at a pace that allows you to properly mount the gun on your shoulder, put your chin on the stock, lead your target and squeeze the trigger.  Throwing up the gun and just shooting is what causes missed shots which leads to wasting shells.  Your tempo can be worked on by getting to the range.  Make sure you practice the way you hunt.  If you are shooting sporting clays, start with the gun partially down and when you say “pull” – mount, chin on stock, lead and squeeze.

One tip I got from a shooting instructor was to never cover up the target with the gun or you will be shooting behind most of the time.  I have found this to be very true.

In the next few weeks I will be going to the range myself and getting ready for dove season.  I have had a few questions on Hunting Sports Plus (my hunting club).  Its not late for a membership for the up coming hunting season.  If you are interested in finding out more information please email me, I would be glad to talk to you about all of the hunting and financial advantages of HSP.  

Good luck and if remember if you have any tips or questions please post or email them to me.


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Time To Get Ready For Dove Season

It's that time of the year when there is no football yet, most of the golf majors are over and there is just not much going on in sports. This is the perfect time of the year to start getting ready for dove season. Regardless of where you live, September 1 will be on us in a hurry. Every year when we hit the fields on opening morning we say (while we are missing birds, sweating and cussing ourselves) "$#%#%#@, next year I am going to get my gun and myself in better shape before season." Opening day does not have to be this way.  Why not take a little time this year before opening day and get everything in shape? Besides, it will give you an excuse to go to Bass Pro or Cabelas, get into your hunting gear and do some shooting. 

Regardless if you are going for the first time in years or you go every year, it is my sincere belief that if you take the time now to prepare you will have a much better opening day hunting experience. So, let's make a pledge to be ready for opening day. To help here is my 5 point plan to prepare for dove season.

1)  Pull out your hunting clothes and make sure everything is ready to go. You want to make sure your shirt, pants, hat and boots still fit and are in good shape. I am a camouflage nut especially if it has something MU on it. If you are looking for that Mizzou camouflage hat to wear, try this one or this one. Comfort is important and if you are like me and you are getting tired of wearing that old cotton shirt or pants that do not breathe, here are a few ideas in hunting clothing that will breath:

Shell belt pouch – I really like a shell belt pouch more because a vest is just too hot wear. Avery's shell belt is the best for comfort, use and style (yes I am biased to shop at Mack's Prairie Wings , however Bass Pro's shell belt is not bad either. Cabelas Dove Vest is still an option if you like a vest that will keep you cool.

Times have changed as far as early hunting season clothing. There is no need to wear all cotton head to toe and just sweat. Remember dove can see color so camo is important but it is not necessary to wear a long sleeve camo shirt and pants. Here is me and Frank Grispino in short sleeves and shorts.


2)  Pull out your shotgun and give it a good cleaning. You want to make sure it's in good working condition. Another thing I do is get out my chokes and make sure I have my IC (improved cylinder) and LM (light modified). The LM is for that range between IC and Modified. I like to shoot LM for the first few weeks of the season, it's the perfect range. One of the things I have been shooting with is my extended chokes by Carlson. Take a look at the sporting clays and ported sporting clays chokes. Both have a better pattern than normal flush chokes. I take both to the field with me just in case the birds are a little weary.


3)  After getting your gun and chokes in order, head to the local gun range to shoot some sporting clays, trap or skeet, this will help you get your shooting eye and swing in shape. I like to start shooting trap for my first few trips to the range and then the last few I switch to sporting clays. It doesn't matter which discipline you choose, what is important is that you practice, practice and practice. Also, shells and chokes play a big role. You want to pattern your gun with your choke and the right shell. I hate shooting those cheap dove loads because they do not pattern as well and they tend to jam. I love to shoot Bass Pro Winchester Heavy Dove Loads because they have 3 ¼ dram of powder and are 1250 fps which is just like shooting a sporting clays shell. . These shells are a bit more expensive at $6.99 a box, but with this shell you will hit more birds. Some people will shoot Winchester AA loads, but since I do not reload I don't care to spend the extra money. As for shot size, either 8 or 7 ½ is fine.

4)  While you are getting your gear out make sure nothing is worn out and make sure you have everything to take to the field. One of the things I now take with me is a good comfortable chair. The chair I have has a pouch in the bottom to carry everything I need however, it is not sold anymore. One option is LL Bean's camp chair, comfortable and has a drink holder. 

Also, make sure you have a small hunting bag with the following:

Bug spray
Multi tool (I like this one for the price)
Spare rag
Small game knife (I like my Browning, this one is on eBay)
Game shears (for easy cleaning, cuts the wings right off)
Ear protection and shooting glasses (practice with them so hunt with them)
Water bottle (for you and your dog)

5) Finally, scout out a place early either public or private land. Early season scouting can pay off big time. I do not like public hunting because some of these people on public land are sometimes reckless and dangerous, so be cautious. One option might be a lease or getting permission to hunt someone's land. I belong to Hunting Sports Plus in Kansas City, MO. They have leased land available all over MO, KS, NE and IA for a variety of hunting. It's a great way to have access to land at a reasonable cost. I have thoroughly enjoyed being a member and it is a great option for those who do not own their own land and like to hunt everything from dove, duck, deer, quail, and pheasant.

Here are a couple of pictures from their website from some successful dove hunts.

Well there you have it, your 5 point plan for getting ready for dove season. In the next few weeks I will be sharing with you my thoughts on some of my early and late season dove hunting setups and tactics. If you are interested in finding out more about Hunting Sports Plus, please feel free to email at

Good luck and see you in the field….