Dove season opens in September and finding birds during this drought might be tough, but this is nothing new.
Locations vary from year to year. Conditions determine where you will find the best dove hunting. Yet, conditions change. The most successful dove hunters are incredible opportunists with binoculars. Drive until you find plenty of doves, and then ask permission from the land owner.
I learned the fickle nature of a dove many years ago after a tremendous hunt on my uncle's farm in northwest Missouri. He was feeding a large herd of hogs field corn from self-feeders.
The porkers lacked in table manners, dropping corn everywhere. They would get a mouth full and then move away from the feeder scattering corn. This fact was not lost on the migrating dove populations who dropped in for a bite.
The bright yellow nuggets scattered on dirt and mud was extremely visible to their extremely sharp eyes.
My uncle's feeding operation laid in a small valley. The long hill to the south had a long line of good sized trees. Several were bare. A small pond laid on the other side of this tree line.
We positioned between hogs and the pond under the tree line, then enjoyed the dove hunt of a lifetime. I attached a couple of new dove decoys on a lower limb to attract their attention.
Doves flew in and out through the cool September air. We enjoyed many pass shots at birds heading for the pond. We dropped several doubles with our Remington 870 Wingmaster pump shotguns. Others set their wings to land in the dead tree that we sat under. These were easy shots. They seemed to hover over us while preparing to land.
The following year I eagerly moved to the same spot before daylight and waited. The sun finally rose and I continued to wait, expecting at least some dove to fly over this select spot — but none came. I did not see a dove in that area all season.
My uncle had shipped out most of the hogs and the feeding operation was reduced. The porkers and their meal ticket were gone so we scouted out another productive area.
Want to enjoy good dove hunting this year? Here are some dove hunting tips that may help you this season:
Roosts — Open roosts like dead trees or telephone lines serve a sharp-eyed dove very well. A tree with heavy leaves give a big black snake or other type of predators the opportunity to sneak up and grab this delicate bird.
Their sharp eyes would never allow that to happen on an open roost. Heavy leaves also make it more difficult for dove to fly quickly away from danger. They are immediately in open air from a bare roost.
Food — Many years ago we found a burnt out field that was bordered by a tree line with some bare trees, numerous acres of soybeans and a lake behind us. The dove magnet was that burnt-out field.
Many years later a biologist explained that the doves were enjoying the open freedom of the burnt-level field. This allowed them to find insects, feed on cooked weed seeds and escape without passing through heavy vegetation.
Normally September is an incredible month of beauty. Leaves start changing colors and tall sunflowers become fields of bright yellow flowers. Doves love to feed on sunflower seeds creating excellent hunting opportunities.
But this year sunflowers may not be very healthy due to lack of water, so row crop or harvested hay fields where grass seeds are easy to find might hold doves.
Conservation areas are generally excellent places for doves. Make sure you check the area's regulations before hunting.
Camouflage — Blending in with your surroundings and sitting still are important factors of dove hunting. Doves can easily pick out color and movement. They survive by noting anything out of place where they intend to land.
You can manage with a camouflage shirt, hat, gloves and a face mask if you wear dark colored pants.
You can blend in with the surroundings or use a camouflaged net and sit on plastic buckets or portable seats. This allows comfort and buckets are useful for transporting shotgun shells, decoys, lots of water, snacks and other equipment.
Decoys — I have always been surprised that most dove hunters don't use decoys. Few take advantage of this easy to transport and highly effective tool. Doves attract to other doves. Decoys are confidence builders for flying doves.
Shotguns and shells — What shotgun to use is an age-old argument between dove hunters. Many prefer pump shotguns while others use a semi-automatic version. Some swear by a 20- or 28-gauge while other s only shoot a 12-gauge.
Shotgun shells should be light. Doves are delicate birds that do not require a big hit. I have successfully shot dove with seven, eight or nine shot. A six shot will drop a dove, but it does too much damage.
Dove hunting is not a difficult sport, but it is fun. Doves dip and dive, often creating a frustrating target. Many miss on the first shot. The key is to stay on your bird and shoot again. Don't forget to take a lot of shotgun shells.