Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Dove Hunting Strategy - What You Need To Know

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.


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