Skip to main content

'X' Marks the Spot for Fall Dove

'X' Marks the Spot for Fall Dove
Hunting an edge, a place where two types cover and/or habitat converge, will often produce shot opportunities. (Lynn Burkhead photo)

It's a question that I've asked myself countless times in a quarter century plus of September outings that have found me chasing mourning dove across the Southern Great Plains while the searing heat of late summer fades into early fall.

While the exact words have varied, the general idea of this mental gymnastics meet in my noggin goes something like this: "If ‘X’ marks the spot, then where in the heck is the ‘X’ in this location?"

This might help to explain a few of the strange looks I've gotten from other hunters through the years as they slowly shake their heads and wonder just whom it is that I'm carrying on a conversation with.

Nevertheless, here are a few answers that I've come up with over the years:


Look First, Hunt Later

A few years ago, while interviewing a nationally known white-tailed deer hunting expert, I learned a nugget of truth that applies just about any time a hunter wanders afield.


Here's what the gentleman told me: "I'd rather give up a day or two of hunting so I can intensively scout from afar so that when I do finally hang a stand to hunt, I'm right where I need to be from the word 'Go.'"

Believe it or not, this woodsy wisdom applies to dove hunting too.

When you arrive at a field or a waterhole location, spend a few moments gathering Intel as you note the aerial preferences of doves already rocketing their way into and out of the area.

Once you've located a good flight pattern, don't waste any time in getting there.


Adjust Quickly

Dove adjust their flight routines into and out of a feeding field or watering hole quickly as the area's hunting pressure mounts. You should do the same thing as the aerial preferences of these speedy little game birds change.

In my younger dove hunting days, I was somewhat reluctant to alter my location, thinking that it would only be a matter of time before a few more birds winged my way. More times than not, that was not the case.

Today, realizing that I don't live in the best dove hunting region of Texas, I'm much quicker to adjust and make a move to where the birds are actually flying.


If 10 to 15 minutes goes by and the majority of the dove are flying "over there," it will not be long before I'm on the move.

Hunt the Edge

Wildlife, including dove on the wing, are generally creatures of the "edge."

That is, the place where two types of cover and/or habitat converge. And when a hunter can figure out where the edge is in a dove hunting field, that's always a good place to start looking for the proverbial “X.”

To illustrate this, let me use an example from the world of bass fishing.

One way to locate bass relating to underwater structure is to fish along a breakline, a spot where shallow water quickly falls into deep water.

Ditto for fishing a region where the bottom composition changes suddenly from something like sand to hard gravel.

In dove hunting, I'm quick to look for the edges that are made by the end of a grain field pressing up against a grassy location; plowed field edges against a grown up area; or something like a crevasse, ditch or waterway running through the middle of a field.

Find Irregularities

Like an old mossback largemouth bass holding tight to a lone stick-up on a shallow-water flat, doves are attracted to irregular features.

From a lone dead snag next to a waterhole, to a gap in a tree line, to a power pole sitting in a field, to rusting farm implements around an old corral, out of the ordinary features can often attract the attention of a passing dove on the wing.

Position yourself accordingly – and legally – to such objects and you might have some easier shooting for birds flying in, slowing down and turning on a dime, and preparing to light.

Find the Food

When most dove hunters think of food for mourners passing through their part of the world, they tend to think of harvested fields like wheat, corn or milo (grain sorghum).

To be certain, these great little game birds will certainly be willing to swing by and tackle a harvested field containing scattered seed leftovers from such crops as wheat, corn, milo, barley, oats, canola sunflowers and millet.

But in more recent years, I’ve also learned that dove like more natural food sources too, things like native sunflowers, dove weed (croton), ragweed, pigweed and even Johnson grass.

Hunting harvested fields can be a good choice for finding good numbers of dove but don’t overlook natural food sources, such as native sunflowers. (Lynn Burkhead photo)
Hunting harvested fields can be a good choice for finding good numbers of dove but don’t overlook natural food sources, such as native sunflowers. (Lynn Burkhead photo)

Learning to identify these more subtle feeding spots not far from dove roosting sites and watering holes can often be a key ingredient to successful dove hunting later in the season as the leftover food of harvested crops begins to play out in your area.

Since most dove hunters tend to ignore these harder to identify native food source locations, finding a good patch of native foods can be the key to some great hunting all by yourself.

Keep Hunting

One of the ironies of dove hunting in my home state of Texas is that the vast majority of the 250,000 or so dove hunters that take to the field each year apparently consider dove season to be a short running affair.

In fact, most of those wingshooters hunt from the traditional September 1 opener, through the Labor Day holiday and into the following weekend.

After that, it's truly "Lonesome Dove" time.

Some recent studies have proven that. One published report a few years ago found that as much as 62 percent of the annual dove hunting harvest in the northern two thirds of Texas actually took place during the first half of the month.

Following that period, the number of dove hunters out and about decreases noticeably as other hunting seasons – and football season – thins out the ranks.

The truth is, however, that the dove hunting itself often gets better and better in many places as the season rolls along into late September and through the month of October.

Though the locally raised birds will be gone by then, millions of other migrant dove will be pouring down the Great Plains and into the Lone Star State on each passing autumn cool front that turns the wind direction to the north.

With nary a wingshooter left in the fields to greet them.

But that's not just true in Texas where the UT Longhorns, the Dallas Cowboys or the local version of a Friday Night Lights' football team play their weekly games.

It's also true across the south where archery deer season, the early teal and resident goose hunting seasons conspire to make late season dove hunter numbers dwindle there too.

So with all of that in mind, why not grab your hunting buddies and put a few of these ideas into play? Because if you do, you might happen to find the proverbial “X” in a dove hunting spot near you.

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

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

New for 2021: Hoyt RX-5, RX-5 Ultra, Ventum 30 and Ventum 33

New for 2021: Hoyt RX-5, RX-5 Ultra, Ventum 30 and Ventum 33

ATA 2021 NeDuring this video from the Archery Trade Association's New Product Premiere showcase, Bowhunter's TV Mike Carney visited with Evan Williams, pro staff manager for Hoyt Archery, to learn about the new RX-5, RX-5 Ultra, Ventum and Ventum 33 bows.w Product - Hoyt

New for 2021: Elite Archery Bows, Slick Trick Broadheads and CBE Sight

New for 2021: Elite Archery Bows, Slick Trick Broadheads and CBE Sight

Learn more about two new Elite Archery bows, the Enkore and Remedy, two new broadhead from Slick Trick and a new site from Custom Bow Equipment (CBE).

New for 2021: Rage Broadhead, Nockturnal Nock, Carbon Express Arrows

New for 2021: Rage Broadhead, Nockturnal Nock, Carbon Express Arrows

New for 2021, here's a look at the new Rage Trypan NC, Nockturnal Shift Nock, Carbon Express Maxima RED Contour and D-Stroyer PileDRIVER arrows.

A Bolt Action from Benelli?

A Bolt Action from Benelli?

We know what you're thinking: Isn't Benelli a shotgun company? Of course it is, but decades of shotgun manufacturing actually put Benelli in a unique position to redefine what a hunting rifle should be. Episode 1 reviews some company history to explain how this all came about.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

The Havoc RS440 XERO, Havoc RS440 and Siege RS410 bring cutting-edge tech to your hunt.New for 2021 from TenPoint Crossbows Crossbows

New for 2021 from TenPoint Crossbows

Game and Fish Staff - December 29, 2020

The Havoc RS440 XERO, Havoc RS440 and Siege RS410 bring cutting-edge tech to your hunt.

When it comes to fishing baits, you won't find a more unusual variety than the strange brews of smelly ingredients often used to catch catfish. How To Make Your Own Catfish Dough Bait Catfish

How To Make Your Own Catfish Dough Bait

Keith Sutton - August 04, 2015

When it comes to fishing baits, you won't find a more unusual variety than the strange brews...

The new bolt gun with a synthetic stock is available in several popular hunting chamberings.Accurate, Affordable, Rugged: CZ-USA 557 Eclipse Bolt-Action SHOT Show

Accurate, Affordable, Rugged: CZ-USA 557 Eclipse Bolt-Action

Game and Fish Staff - December 02, 2020

The new bolt gun with a synthetic stock is available in several popular hunting chamberings.

A new long-range hunting contender enters the fray.First Look: Winchester's New 6.8 Western Cartridge SHOT Show

First Look: Winchester's New 6.8 Western Cartridge

Drew Warden - January 19, 2021

A new long-range hunting contender enters the fray.

See More Trending Articles

More Hunting How-To

In the waning days of waterfowl season, dogs and hunters alike can benefit from a regroup.Late Ducks: Avoid These 3 Dog Disasters and Finish Strong Waterfowl

Late Ducks: Avoid These 3 Dog Disasters and Finish Strong

Scott Linden - January 13, 2021

In the waning days of waterfowl season, dogs and hunters alike can benefit from a regroup.

Want to make the most of this year's rut? Your success hinges on avoiding these common mistakes.Avoid These 10 Mistakes During the Deer Rut Whitetail

Avoid These 10 Mistakes During the Deer Rut

Bob Robb - November 11, 2020

Want to make the most of this year's rut? Your success hinges on avoiding these common...

Agricultural fields give Southern deer hunters outstanding harvest opportunities.Fields of Dreams Offer Food for Whitetails, Success for Hunters Whitetail

Fields of Dreams Offer Food for Whitetails, Success for Hunters

Terry Madewell - November 05, 2020

Agricultural fields give Southern deer hunters outstanding harvest opportunities.

Use these presentations to boat more cold-water bass as the season winds down.3 Active Ways to Grab a Cold-Weather Bass' Attention Bass

3 Active Ways to Grab a Cold-Weather Bass' Attention

Mike Pehanich - December 17, 2020

Use these presentations to boat more cold-water bass as the season winds down.

See More Hunting How-To

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Game & Fish App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

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

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Game & Fish subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now