Dove Hunting: Think Wires, Water, Treeline Breaks

Dove Hunting: Think Wires, Water, Treeline Breaks
Infographic by Ryan Kirby

Preparing for dove hunting: know your birds' habits, and get ready to exercise your trigger finger. 

By M.D. Johnson

If you're a wingshooting fanatic, few months are more notable than September. That month signals the start of yet another dove hunting season.

Shutterstock image


Dove hunting is a social time for many of us. We get together with friends and family, show off those just-acquired retriever pups and that brand spankin' new over/under. We also spend the day outdoors hoping to fill a cooler with a limit of one of the most prolific and most challenging game birds ever to grace the planet.


A seat in the shade, a bottle of ice water, and plenty of No. 7 1/2 shotshells are all that's truly necessary to enjoy an amazing dove hunt. Oh, and a goodly dose of humility, too.

Doves Over Water

Dove hunting and sunflower fields have traditionally been synonymous terms. However, hunters can — and should — take advantage of the mourner's daily water requirements.

Water sources need not be large or even permanent in nature. A tiny seep, a seasonal puddle in a depression, or a slow-moving creek might all hold potential. Of course, ponds, tributary streams or even small rivers can likewise provide shooting opportunities.


Regardless of the specifics, each should be relatively open in nature, with the best holding several tall dead trees at the water's edge, and the ultimate having a gently sloping sand shoreline leading into the shallows. Here the birds enjoy good visibility, their primary defense against predators, as well as access to grit and water, both of which are daily requirements.

Hunting these water sources is uncomplicated. A portable blind is nice, and yet in many instances, a seat in the shadows with good fields of fire is all that's needed. At the water's edge, a half dozen full-bodied decoys and a pair of spinners — one low and one high — add to the scenario's already-existing attractiveness. While birds can trade into and out of such spots throughout the course of the day, especially in hot weather, these water sources are often best hunted at mid-morning, or after the doves have had a chance to feed, and in the final hour or two of legal shooting time prior to the birds going to roost. Shots will generally be close at these waterholes, making an open or improved-cylinder choke and No. 7 1/2, 8 or even 9 shot a good rule of thumb.



Infographic by Ryan Kirby

MAKE A DOVE WIRE

DRIVE TWO 2-foot pieces of 3/4-inch metal conduit into the ground.  A 10-foot section of 1/2-inch conduit slips into each section of 3/4-inch pipe, with wire stretched between them. Clip 6 to 8 decoys on the wire with a spinning-wing on one of the uprights.


Give Me a Break

While hunting a public dove field with my wife, Julia, her youngest son, Robbie, and the finest black Labrador retriever ever, Maggie, I noticed something. Oh, we were enjoying a tremendous shoot from our stools around the perimeter of the sunflowers. But I noticed that 75 percent of the doves entering, or those lucky enough to exit the field, did so between a 100-foot-wide gap in the pin oaks that ringed the area. Apparently, Robbie, new to dove hunting, noticed it, too.

"Can I go stand down there, M.D.?" he asked. With the requisite instructions to be safe, I sent him on his way. Thirty minutes and a whole lot of shooting later, I noticed him wandering back in our direction, one hand full of doves. Quietly, the boy walked over to the cooler, put the birds on ice, looked me full in the face, and asked, "Say, M.D., can I have some more shells?"

For everyone concerned, including Maggie, it was a great experience.

The point here is that even — or perhaps especially — on public-dove fields, birds will show a tendency to use one or two routes, we'll call them, to enter and exit the field. Typically, these routes are defined by breaks in the terrain or topography; a gap in a treeline, a roll or depression in ground of higher elevation nearby, or even something as subtle as a fenceline or field edge. Best and most obvious, however, are gaps or breaks in a treeline.

Ideally, the gap is narrow enough so as to make one side or the other a prime shooting location. If not, you can set up a lightweight portable blind near center to provide shooting opportunities to either side, as well as, if safety permits, to both front and back. Shots in these situations can fall on the long side, like in pass-shooting. A modified choke, probably no more, and a box of No. 6 or 7 1/2 should help you fill the Yeti.

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

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

MLF Pros: What

MLF Pros: What's Your Go-To Lure?

When all else fails, here's what these pros tie on.

Mustad Skatter Shad Bladed Jig

Mustad Skatter Shad Bladed Jig

As Mustad continues to expand into an all-around tackle company, Reid McKinstry shows off some innovative features that make the Mustad Skatter Shad bladed jig a winner in big bass waters.

MLF BPT angler and former Classic champ Casey Ashley has been with Costa del Mar sunglasses his whole career. At ICAST 2019, he shows OSG writer Lynn Burkhead some new products and talks how to pick the right lens color for the water.

New Spinning Reel for Finesse Fishermen

New Spinning Reel for Finesse Fishermen

As Pure Fishing's Andrew Upshaw explains, reel making giant Abu Garcia has done it again at ICAST 2019 with a new spinning reel geared towards finesse fishermen.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

While wildly popular amongst anglers around the world, the IGFA World Record book shows the biggest pike come from Europe. Records

Top 10 Biggest Pike World Records of All Time

Jack Vitek - August 19, 2015

While wildly popular amongst anglers around the world, the IGFA World Record book shows the...

Experts agree record channel cat caught in 1949 was actually a blue catfish. Records

Upon Further Review: 70-Year-Old Catfish Record Voided

G&F Online Staff - May 22, 2019

Experts agree record channel cat caught in 1949 was actually a blue catfish.

Celebrate with great food for your backyard BBQ or picnic with these outdoor recipes. Wild Game

10 Recipes for Your Outdoor BBQ

Game & Fish Online Staff

Celebrate with great food for your backyard BBQ or picnic with these outdoor recipes.

Dozens of different bait types are commonly used for catfish, including these great options. Catfish

12 Great Catfish Baits

Jeff Samsel

Dozens of different bait types are commonly used for catfish, including these great options.

See More Trending Articles

More Upland

Lone pheasant hunters can find success if they get creative. Upland

Solo Strategies for Pheasants

M.D. Johnson - November 06, 2019

Lone pheasant hunters can find success if they get creative.

Lone Star State wingshooters could have a stellar season, especially in the south. Upland

Texas Hunters Can Expect Banner Dove Season for 2019

Lynn Burkhead - September 09, 2019

Lone Star State wingshooters could have a stellar season, especially in the south.

Modern gear that's changing the game for quail, grouse, pheasant, dove. Upland

Upland-Specific Gear for 2019 Bird Hunting

G&F Online Staff - August 20, 2019

Modern gear that's changing the game for quail, grouse, pheasant, dove.

These great shotshells are applicable to the dove field. Upland

Gear Trend: Sub-Bore Ammo for Dove Hunting

M.D. Johnson - August 20, 2019

These great shotshells are applicable to the dove field.

See More Upland

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.