Dove Hunting How-To
Hunting Dove in the Southeast
Dove hunting in the southeast United States is a fantastic kickoff to the fall hunting season. For many hunters, the start of dove season is a rich celebration full of tradition and promise. Whether you’re looking forward to quiet solo hunts, getting a new hunter into the field, or group hunts full of fellowship and camaraderie, dove hunting has so much to offer.
Following these how-to tips and tricks for hunters in the southeast will help you be more successful this fall during your dove hunts!
Dove Hunt Migration
Cool fall evenings and warm afternoons are the perfect combination to kick off the mourning dove migration. Mourning doves spend the warm spring and summertime months across much of North America nesting and brooding their young. As cold fronts begin to push south and the daylight hours become shorter, doves are among one of the first game birds to start the southern migration.
Keeping an eye on the weather forecast and wind direction is a critical component to successful dove hunting. Obviously, the mourning dove migration in the fall is from north to south. Watch for cool fronts and thunderstorms one hundred miles or more north of your hunting location. It’s amazing how quickly birds will move in front of cool weather and into your hunting spot.
Don’t be discouraged if your prime dove hunting spots don’t have many birds early in the season. It’s amazing how quickly a good location can fill up with birds once the migration starts.
Dove Hunting Hot Spots and Scouting
Hunting Feeding Fields
Similar to most types of hunting success, location is a critical component when it comes to hunting doves. Arguably the best strategy for a successful dove hunt is to find and hunt an active dove feed field. Cut grain fields, hay meadows, pumpkin fields, and sunflower patches are all excellent locations to scout for and hunt doves. When you are looking at a potential dove hunting field consider these factors:
- Wind direction and flight path. Doves will typically approach a field and land into the wind. Consider the most effective tactics for the field and the wind combination before you set up. Shots at crossing birds or birds landing into your blind offer the highest percentages.
- Where will you hide? While mourning doves are not the most skittish of birds, they also won’t tolerate a hunter in the middle of the field they plan to land in. Look for low-lying areas where your outline will be broken up, such as terraces, field corners, or fence lines. Use natural vertical vegetation for cover and try to stay in the shadows.
- Recovering your birds can be in issue in extra tall or thick cover. While hunting with a good dog can make finding downed birds much easier, you should always look for and find downed birds before you begin your next round.
Hunting Over Water
Especially in drier areas where water is scarce, or during a drought year, hunting doves over water can be productive. Doves prefer watering areas with plenty of exposed shoreline – shallow ponds with shorter vegetation cover and flat banks help the birds feel safer. Dead or bare trees nearby for resting are a bonus.
Similar to setting up to hunt in a feed field, consider the wind, your hide/blind, and how you will recover your birds when hunting near or over a water source.
Although they might not meet the criteria above, productive watering areas to hunt doves also include: stock ponds, irrigation canals, windmills, and even livestock tanks (especially if they run over some).
Hunting a Dove Roost
Mourning doves roost (i.e., rest and sleep) in the evenings on some type of perch. If your hunt is an afternoon or evening hunt, hunting near a known roosting spot can be very productive as they come to land for the night. However, understand that once you hunt a roost, the birds may not use it again until a new batch of birds migrates into the area.
Roosts are typically dead trees, usually with an open area around providing a great vantage point for resting doves. Lone trees on the edge of a feed field or along a pond dam can be very productive.
Birds can often be seen resting and roosting on utility lines. Obviously shooting birds off of a utility facility is not an option, because it can cause damage to the utility company’s property, cause outages of utility service, and even start a wildfire. But keeping an eye on aerial utility lines when scouting for birds can be incredibly productive. Once you find birds resting on aerial wires, watch them from a distance to figure out their feed source.
Dove Season Tips and Tactics
Locating birds and setting up using the wind are keys to a successful hunt, but there are a variety of tips and tactics that will help you bag more birds.
Using Dove Decoys
Doves are social birds and the migration is a social event for them. Using decoys to attract birds to within shotgun range (toyour spot on the spot) is a proven and deadly tactic.
Motion, flasher, or spinning decoys are especially effective when it comes to attracting birds. Creating the action of flashing wings landing in your hunting area will not only attract more birds, but it will also help them come within shotgun range. Clip-on decoys are also effective at attracting more birds. These decoys are basically a foam or plastic resting dove body that you fasten or clip onto a horizontal branch or fence.
While dove hunting generally occurs in warmer weather, that doesn’t mean dressing for the hunt isn’t important. Choose drab colored clothing that is dull and made from fabric that won’t shine in the sun. Camouflage isn’t a necessity, but it sure won’t hurt your chances.
Wear loose-fitting clothing manufactured from fabric that will wick away sweat and keep you dry. Colors like browns, grays, and olive are appropriate for dove hunts. Remember to stay on the shadowed side of the surrounding cover with the sun off of your face.
Outdoorsmen and women look forward to the kickoff of fall hunting seasons all summer. The migratory dove season is a sure sign that autumn has arrived, and a variety of hunting opportunities are just around the corner. Whether you hunt public or private land, get out there, find some doves, and enjoy the start of a new season.