September 21, 2022
This article on dove hunting was featured in September's Game & Fish Magazine. The October issue is currently on sale nationwide. Click to learn how to subscribe.
At the risk of stating the obvious, in order to be effective, decoys of any kind have to be visible. Dove decoys especially, with their drab coloration, tend to disappear among the taller stubble of sunflowers, silage corn and winter wheat.
Fortunately, there's a simple solution: elevation.
By raising your dove decoys off the ground, you make them more visible to passing birds. But how to achieve this elevation? In seasons past, we've clipped our dove decoys to the uppermost strand of a barbed wire fence with some success. A plastic dove or two atop a still-standing sunflower or positioned on the bare branches of a dead tree are other options, but those require the presence of a fence, sunflower or dead tree.
For the times when there’s no way to get dove decoys off the ground, I rely on a DIY dove wire or dove tree. Inexpensive to make, easy to transport, quick to assemble in the field and ridiculously effective because they get the decoys well above the ground, both can pull birds from the heavens like the tractor beam that sucked the Millennium Falcon into the Death Star.
The Dove Wire
The materials required to construct a dove wire are minimal and available at most hardware stores:
- Two 36-inch pieces of 3/4-inch metal electrical conduit
- Two 6-foot sections of 1/2-inch metal electrical conduit
- One 8-foot section of 1/2-inch metal electrical conduit
- Two 1/2-inch metal 90-degree conduit elbows
Cut one end of each of the 36-inch pieces of 3/4-inch conduit at an angle. This will make it easier to drive them into the ground. Attach a 90-degree elbow to one end of each of the 6-inch sections of half-inch conduit. These are your uprights. Paint all of the metal pieces a flat brown prior to assembly and allow to dry thoroughly.
Once in the field, drive each of the 36-inch sections of 3/4-inch conduit approximately a foot into the ground and 8 feet apart. Attach the 8-foot section of 1/2-inch conduit to the 90-degree elbows at the top of each of the 6-foot sections and fasten securely. Clip six to eight dove decoys onto the 8-foot cross-section at various intervals. Any 3D dove decoy will work; I like Flambeau Outdoors’ lightweight foam dove decoys. Each decoy may require a round or two of black electrical tape to stay put.
Here’s where having a partner comes in handy. Together, raise the upright/cross-section assembly, with the decoys in place, and slide the ends of the 1/2-inch uprights into the 3/4-inch pieces you’ve driven into the ground.
If you want to kick it up a notch, use two heavy-duty cable ties to fasten the uppermost section of the mounting stake of a spinning wing decoy (like Mojo Outdoors’ Voodoo Dove) to the top of one of the 6-foot uprights at the elbow. Now you’ve really got a dove magnet! Position your dove wire where you want the birds to present themselves. It’s been my experience that many doves will attempt to land alongside the foam fakes, making for relatively easy shooting opportunities. A word of advice: If you’re going to do this, take two or three extra decoys, as yours may occasionally catch some stray shot.
The Dove Tree
Erecting the dove wire by oneself can prove a bit daunting. A simpler way of elevating dove decoys, and one much more user-friendly for the solo hunter, is what I call the dove tree. Similar to the wire, the tree consists of:
- One 36-inch section of 3/4-inch metal conduit
- Two 6-foot sections of 1/2-inch metal conduit
- One 1/2-inch metal conduit coupling/connector
- Several 3- to 6-foot-long, finger-thick branches, trimmed
- Cable ties
Drive the 36-inch section of 3/4-inch conduit into the ground approximately 18 inches. Connect the two 6-foot sections of 1/2-inch conduit using the coupling. Twelve to 18 inches from the top, secure one of the shorter branches perpendicular to the conduit with two cable ties zipped in an “X” pattern. Eighteen inches below that, attach a second branch; below that, a third, each longer than the one above. Clip foam dove decoys randomly to the branches, raise the upright and slide it into the 3/4-inch conduit in the ground. If you desire, add a spinning-wing decoy to the top by slipping its stake into the opening of the conduit.