6 Tips For Your Dove Setup

Not all stands on a dove field are equal. So it pays to give some thought to where you take a station for a hunt. Here are some things to keep in mind.

At a luncheon before a dove shoot sponsored by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, I noticed conservation officers sitting at the landowner's table. It seemed like a very good idea to have the officers there.

Picking a good location on a dove field can make or break your hunt. Photo by John E. Phillips.

Due to their involvement, we hunters could be a bit more secure in the knowledge that we weren't going to get ticketed for shooting over a baited field. That can certainly ruin a day of shooting!

But that is but one of several ways to be proactive in insuring a good hunt. Here's a look at six such tips for a successful dove set-up.

KEEP IT LEGAL
As with the FCA event, it's good to have the field checked by local conservation officers before the hunt if possible.

Besides checking the field before they were also able to head off the possibility of having write citations by reminded the hunters of the legal shooting rules.

He suggested we check our guns before going into the field, to make and make sure they only held three shells. Also, did we have our licenses with us?

Basically having an officer stop by prevents tickets being written for offenses of "oversight." If you check before the hunt, you don't get nasty surprises later in the field.

Finally the officers highlighted some firearm handling tips to make sure we had a safe and enjoyable dove hunt.

BE PREPARED
Scout the field before the hunt. Doves follow pathways in the sky -- certain instinctual routes that most doves use coming into and leaving a field. By scouting before the hunt, you can learn where the birds like to enter and leave the field. That also tells you where you want to place your stand for the hunt.

Look for loafing trees. Near most fields and clearings, doves pick a couple of trees to fly before heading to the ground. From that perch they observe the field before committing to flying down.

If you can identify one of these loafing trees, plan to take a stand under it. You should get plenty of easy shots.

GO TO THE WATER
Search for a watering hole -- a pond, mud puddle or a creek somewhere near the field where doves can get water. If such a watering hole is contiguous to the field it can be a hot spot.

As with fields, doves like to fly to a loafing tree first, survey the watering hole for danger and then fly to open ground where they can light and walk to the edge for a drink.

BET ON DECOYS
The first time I took a MOJO spinning-wing dove decoy into the field, people acted as though I'd dressed in clown clothing and wore a big red nose. There were plenty of jokes, laughing and lighthearted from buddies and other hunters on the field.

Then when doves started making sharp turns to join my spinning-wing decoy, the sniggering ended abruptly. The frequency with which my 12-gauge barked and feathers flew made believers out of my companions. They were soon crowding nearer to my stand site!

Once I'd taken my limit, I heard a number of them asking, "Can I borrow your decoy just to try it?"

Clip-on plastic dove decoys placed in trees also can increase the number of birds that come in range. In effect, you can create a loafing tree with decoys, since doves are gregarious birds.

I've even seen hunters use fishing tackle to place decoys high in trees. They tie a lightweight plastic dove decoy to fishing line attached to a rod and reel. The decoy is cast over a high limb and given line to drop it down to appear to be sitting on a lower limb. When the hunt is over, the decoy is simple reeled back in!

USE COVER
I've seen dove hunters march straight out to the middle of a field and kneel down or sit on a dove stool, and wonder why they don't kill any birds. Undoubtedly, they stuck out like a sore thumb!

You're much better off to have some type of blind on the field, or at least backing up under the shade of a tree. That breaks up your outline and gets more and closer shots.

Wearing camouflage clothing and having some type of cover to keep the doves from spotting you always works best.

DON'T GO CHEAP
The don't-go-cheap rule applies to two aspects of dove hunting. First it applies to equipment and also to location.

Most dove hunters buy the cheapest shotgun shells they can at discount stores. Those "low brass" loads may seem easy on the wallet, but they are often just a easy on the birds.

You sacrifice range when shooting the shells, but most of us are not disciplined enough to wait for the doves to get that close. In the end, you probably spend just as much money on the cheaper shells because of misses.

The high quality skeet-and-trap load shells produce a better pattern and reach out to the doves at a greater range.

If your option is to hunt on pay-to-shoot fields, again you don't want to pinch nickels. For a quality shoot where you have a legitimate chance to take a limit of doves, don't go on the cheapest dove hunt available. If you go on a $10 or $25 per person shoot, you'll probably get what you pay for. Which may turn out to be staring at vacant sky.

I've found that charity dove shoots usually pay-off in more dove opportunities, since the landowner and the charity promoting the hunt want to provide a quality experience to raise as much money as possible. The also want to have a loyal clientele for future years.

Thus they go out of their way to make sure you enjoy a legal hunt with plenty of doves available.

Applying these tips to your dove shoots this year can increase your odds for success.

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