Dove Days

The lighter side of Southern wingshooting

Dove Days

Neurotic turkeys, elusive quail, sharp-eyed ducks - there's plenty of stressful bird hunting in Florida, but why not take it easy with a laidback, casual hunt that's as much about bonding with friends and family, as it is about bagging dinner - although that part's not so tough.

Doves -- mostly the indigenous mourning variety, interspersed with the larger, non-native Eurasian ringnecks -- offer fairly regular targets that provide plenty of sport to satisfy experienced shooters, with a reasonable level of predictability to engage beginners without frustrating them too badly.

A low-key sport, this certainly is, but it's also high on the ambiance and camaraderie. Trucks parked under oaks and pines, the ticking of gun case zippers, the rattle of shotgun shells stuffed into the pockets of camouflage jackets or field vests, the friendly banter about conditions, previous hunts, and the day's outlook -- this is the dove hunt warm-up. A similar gathering takes place once the hunt concludes with a mix of bragging on shots made and ragging on those missed.

In the common dove setup, proximity allows everyone to keep an eye on one another. That can be a good thing and a bad thing. Miss an easy shot and you're sure to catch a load of grief from your fellow hunters.


Let a set of birds pass you undetected and you can expect chides of "Wake up!" or "Put down that cell phone!"


And few dove hunters escape group outings without getting "peppered" a few times. When a hunter fires shotgun pellets into the air. Some will hit the dove, while the rest fall harmlessly to earth. When pellets drop on fellow hunter, that person has been "peppered." As long as you're not looking up without protective eyewear, the metallic rain is harmless, but it often draws indignant shouts of "Hey, watch it!"

The parties involved typically lob tongue-in-cheek jabs about who set up on the wrong side of the field and who's spooking off whose birds. Everyone else just chuckles at the exchange.


Click image for the photo gallery


Such moments, combined with the inherent value of passing time outdoors with the pals, provide much needed stress-relievers. It's a great way to blow off steam, recharge the batteries and bring home a tasty little dinner.


Now, about the latter -- here's a snapshot of some key points to a Florida dove hunt.

HABITAT: Dove hunters commonly lease seasonal access for agricultural fields. Fees cover the hunting rights plus any preparations the landowner makes to enhance the field's attraction for doves.

According to federal regulations, a field is considered "baited" for 10 days following complete removal of all grain, feed or salt deliberately spread to attract birds. Farmers may plant seeding crops such as millet to attract dove, but the field must be turned over at least 10 days prior to hunting.


On public lands, wild grasses and various seeding vegetation will attract doves, as will a nearby water source. Look for an open field with plenty of room for birds to spread out and feed. 

Doves aren't terribly wary creatures, but they like to pause and survey their dining room before committing, so fields with perimeter power lines or tall pine trees with barren branches are most promising. Spend a few days sitting and watching and you'll garner valuable insight into the doves' flight patterns.

SHELL GAME: Shotguns -- pump action, semi-automatic or double barrel -- are best for dove hunting. Ten-gauge is the legal cap, but 12- and 20-gauge guns are most common. Experienced shooters may go with a 28-gauge, while the young hunters in training appreciate the minimal "kick" of a 410.

Shells with an ounce to an ounce and an eighth of Size 7 1/2 to Size 8 lead shot produce an effective kill range of about 25-35 yards. Pump action and semi-automatic guns must be plugged to hold no more than three shells.

DOVE REGULATIONS: Daily bag limit is 15 and possession limit is 30. Hunters need a Florida Hunting License and Florida Migratory Bird Permit (free). A Wildlife Management Area permit is required for hunting WMAs. Exemptions apply for age (under 16, 65 and older) and other criteria.

Licenses and permits can be obtained from any tax collector's office or licensed subagent or by calling (toll free) 1-888-HUNT-FLORIDA (888) 486-8356. For complete details on licenses, visit http://myfwc.com/License/LicPermit_RecreationalHF.htm.

WHEN TO SHOOT: Florida dove season has three phases, the first of which ran October 6-29. Second Phase runs Nov. 10 and ends on the 25. Third Phase will be Dec. 8 through Jan. 6, 2013. The last two phases allow hunters to shoot from one-half hour before sunrise to sunset.

The birds may sit in the trees until just before sundown during warm afternoons, but cool, cloudy conditions will bring longer periods of activity. Morning hunts usually offer the most pleasant conditions, plus the birds are less spooky than they are at day's end.

COLLECTION SERVICE: Since you're rarely shooting doves over water, retrievers are optional. However, a dog's educated nose comes in handy when you're having trouble locating the last couple of birds in waning light.

During good visibility, letting kids run out to pick up birds keeps them involved and interested. For safety, verbally or audibly alert other hunters when you send a child or a retriever into the field.

Most dove shots will be at angles of 10-11 o'clock and shooting birds on the ground is bad form.

Aim well or plan on being chastised for missing what others could have hit shooting backwards with their eyes closed in a snowstorm. When we have snowstorms, in Florida, that is.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Berkley

Berkley's Frittside Crankbaits

World Fishing Network show host Chad LaChance had a chance to visit with legendary crankbait master David Fritts about his new Frittside crankbaits from Berkley. LaChance, host of the Fishful Thinker on WFN, also got a few cranking tips from Fritts, the former Classic and Forrest Wood Cup champion.

Electric Filet Knife from Bubba Blades

Electric Filet Knife from Bubba Blades

As OSG's Lynn Burkhead looks on, Josh Neville shows off the cordless and corded versions of a new electric filet knife from Bubba Blades.

BPT Points Champ Edwin Evers Talks New Berkley Baits

BPT Points Champ Edwin Evers Talks New Berkley Baits

After making the switch to Berkley products heading into the inaugural BPT season, Edwin Evers tells OSG's Lynn Burkhead why Berkley baits played such a key role in his recent angling success.

13 Fishing Pathfinder Weedless Walking Bait

13 Fishing Pathfinder Weedless Walking Bait

Fresh off catching the biggest bass in ICAST Cup history, 13 Fishing pro Jessie Mizell shows OSG's Lynn Burkhead the new Big Squirm soft plastic worm and the company's unique Pathfinder topwater walking bait that is totally weedless in design.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

You can catch bluegill faster with these strategies. Panfish

Find and Fish Bluegill Beds Efficiently

Terry Madewell - May 22, 2019

You can catch bluegill faster with these strategies.

 A 7 pound giant taken on a jig during the pre-spawn transistion in the Midwest.

Although the art Bass

4 Tips When Jig Fishing For Bass

Chris Schneider - August 25, 2015

A 7 pound giant taken on a jig during the pre-spawn transistion in the Midwest. Although...

Fishing for nighttime crappie gets you out of the summer heat and puts more fish in the cooler.

By Other Freshwater

6 Tips for Nighttime Crappie

Keith Sutton - June 19, 2017

Fishing for nighttime crappie gets you out of the summer heat and puts more fish in the...

As most catfish anglers know, blue cats, channel cats and flatheads will eat darn near anything that fits in their mouths. Catfish

5 Ways To Catch Catfish on Lures

Keith Sutton - September 16, 2015

As most catfish anglers know, blue cats, channel cats and flatheads will eat darn near...

See More Trending Articles

More Stories

A father and daughter with their dogs on a dry ground mountain lion hunt get more than they bargain Stories

Arizona Mountain Lion Hunt Turns Into Dangerous Jaguar Encounter

Aaron Decker - November 30, 2011

A father and daughter with their dogs on a dry ground mountain lion hunt get more than they...

Here's a look at some of coyote hunting rifles and shot gun featured in this summer's Game & Fish 2018 Gear Guide magazine. Stories

Gear Reviews: New Coyote Hunting Rifles, Shotguns

Game & Fish Online Staff - September 07, 2018

Here's a look at some of coyote hunting rifles and shot gun featured in this summer's Game &...

Behind the Badge is a regular series of perspective stories by Oklahoma game warden Carlos Gomez. In this article, Gomez recounts his experiences from his first nighttime poaching bust. Stories

Behind the Badge: A Warden's First Night-Poaching Bust

Game & Fish Online Staff - July 30, 2018

Behind the Badge is a regular series of perspective stories by Oklahoma game warden Carlos...

That's the best place to have any of the coyotes you expect to bag after winter closes in! These are coyote calling tips every hunter could use. Stories

Coyote Calling Tips for Hunting at Close Range

Tim Lilley - January 09, 2014

That's the best place to have any of the coyotes you expect to bag after winter closes in!...

See More Stories

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.