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What You Need to Know About Hunting Mourning Doves
Mourning doves are one of our most challenging gamebirds – not because they are wary or because they have excellent senses – but rather, simply because they are hard to hit.
This common bird is no stranger to most folks, whether they dwell in urban areas or in the country. The adaptable dove is at home around bird feeders as well as in grain fields. Mourning doves are a grayish-brown bird with black splotches on their wings and black markings on the head. They are roughly the same size as, or maybe a bit smaller than, their cousin, the pigeon. Doves also have more-pointed tails than pigeons. Mourning doves are named for their mournful, cooing call.
Doves are Faster Than You Might Think
Mourning doves are swift fliers and regularly cruise at about 30 mph, but can reach speeds of more than 60 mph. This, in addition to their twisting and turning while in flight, makes them difficult targets for dove hunters.
Where to Find Them
Most dove hunting is done near agricultural fields, such as oats, wheat, rye, sunflower, canola, beans or other small grains. Doves also feed in weed fields that produce small seeds. In addition to food, water is an important consideration for dove hunters. The best hunting areas have good food sources in close proximity to water sources and roosting cover. Some hunters set up along water sources, where they wait for doves in the evening. Decoys are commonly used in trees, along fence lines or next to water. Pass shooting is also popular.
Some of the best dove hunting occurs on private lands. Be sure to get landowner permission before hunting on private lands. Some people even plant food plots for dove hunting or time their crop harvests in coordination with dove hunts. Check hunting regulations to learn what constitutes legal hunting over crop fields.
What You Need For The Hunt
Any type of shotgun loaded with light loads, such as No. 8 shot, will be adequate for dove hunting. Dove hunters would be wise to practice regularly on a trap, skeet or sporting clays range prior to dove season. Regular shooting practice improves hand-eye coordination and reminds you of the importance of swinging the gun while shooting. Should you fail to heed this lesson, the birds will remind you. If you don’t keep swinging the gun as you fire, you’re sure to shoot behind your target.
Equipment for dove hunting is minimal. All you really need is a gun and plenty of shells. However, you may wish to bring along a cooler to keep the birds cool in the warm weather of early autumn. The cooler can double as a seat. A dog is also a good idea. Doves are small and their cryptic coloration blends amazingly well with most environments. A dog’s sense of smell will help you find downed birds. Be sure to bring plenty of water to keep Rover going in hot weather. If you don’t have a dog, carefully mark where your bird falls and rush to the spot without taking your eyes off it. Pass on any shots that would drop birds in thick or tall cover.
From Field to Table
In addition to being sporty gamebirds, doves are excellent table fare. Check out these 9 tasty ways to prepare your harvest for the table. No bacon required!