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If you’ve never tried wing-shooting before, but you’re seriously considering joining the community, dove hunting should be your introductory course. It provides you with the basic foundation required to quickly develop the skill, and upgrade to upland hunting.
We guarantee you that the experience will be enjoyable and laid-back, and you’ll always get the opportunity to make new friends. What’s more, you don’t need costly equipment to get started. Just a shotgun, stand, camouflage clothing, license, and maybe bait.
Read on if you wish to learn about some of the basic tips and tricks on dove hunting.
Doves are from the Columbidae family, which has over 300 different species, the pigeon being one of them. Yes, a pigeon is also a type of dove! In the United States, we have a total of 15 known species. But you’re only allowed to hunt 3 species: the White-Winged dove, Eurasian-Collared dove, and Mourning doves.
Their diets primarily consist of a wide variety of plants, fruits, grains, and seeds. That’s why they love hanging around sunflower and corn fields or in places where harvested wheat is being stored. If they are not there, try the ponds or areas characterized by tall grass cover.
When it comes to clothing, put on something that will help you carry water, a few snacks, and extra ammo. Since we’re not going to war, there’s no need to purchase something that makes you look like a mercenary. If it can carry those few things and serve as camouflage, you’re good to go.
These strategies are meant to make your work easier and make the activity fun. They don’t have to be as complex as the strategies used in sports or business. Just think about the gear that’s most appropriate and the techniques.
The first technique to learn is pass-shooting and decoy, which is basically shooting while the doves are flying by. It’s not the best technique for hunters who are alone, seeing as they’ll struggle to get the doves riled up. It’s a lot easier to agitate a bevy of doves and force them to start flying if you’re hunting in a group.
Decoys are useful when you’re trying to lure the birds within range. One thing we came to learn about doves is that they are just as curious as we humans are. Once they spot something interesting, they’ll want to see it up close. So you can either peg your decoy on the ground or clip it on a fence or tree.
Jump-shooting is the other basic technique to know. It’s different in the sense that you’ll feel as if you’re actually hunting the bird, and not just shooting at stationary targets. Most dove shooters usually resort to this technique during summer when most birds are under trees trying to protect themselves from the extreme heat of the sun.
You won’t be wearing a camouflage piece of clothing if you’re planning to jump-shoot because you have to be visible to other hunters. They’ll also be wearing orange to ensure no “friendly” shots are fired.
If you take a quick look at the statistics gathered over the years, you’ll realize that doves are hunted more than any other migratory bird species in North America. So, to ensure we don’t hunt them to a point where they have to be enlisted as an endangered species, we’ve protected them under the federal Migratory Bird Act.
In addition to these laws, some states have also come up with their own hunting rules.
The most prominent law is the one that talks about baiting. And it says it’s illegal to hunt any dove in areas that are specifically baited for doves. This law is obviously confusing, and subject to interpretation, seeing as doves love hanging around farmlands. Therefore, to be sure you’re on the right side of the law, this is all you need to remember:
We’re not totally sure if this applies to all states but in most of them, you’re required to not only have a license, but also a HIP number. “HIP” is an abbreviation for Harvest Information Program, which is a survey carried out by the state officials who are tasked with keeping track of the residents’ harvesting numbers.
The dove hunting season usually kicks off in September and runs all the way to December. But then again this depends on the state. In Northern Texas, for example, it runs from the first day of September to the 12th of November. They’ll again open a second window on the 18th of December until the 3rd of January.
The rules are different for invasive species, though. If you’re hunting a Eurasian-collared dove, which has always been considered an invasive species, you’re allowed to hunt it anytime. There are no restrictions or bag limits.
The United States Fish and Wildlife Service has an agreement with all the states with regards to the maximum number of doves that are supposed to be hunted by an individual per day. There’s also something called the possession limit, which is essentially the maximum number of doves that you’re to possess over a certain time period.
So, your state could have a daily bag limit of 20, with a possession limit of 40. Make sure you know what your numbers are before you start shooting down doves.
You are only allowed to use shotguns that can hold a maximum of three shells. It doesn’t matter if it’s a side-by-side shotgun, an over-under, or a single shot. You’re only good to go if it’s designed to hold one shell in the chamber and two in the magazine. If it’s semi-automatic, you’ll need to insert a plug into the magazine. And it has to be one that can only be removed or inserted by disassembling, or it won’t be considered a lawful plug.
Bagging doves is not easy even for an experienced hunter because they are strong fliers. To put this into context, a mature Mourning dove can fly at speeds of 55 miles per hour. To successfully hit such a flying target, you have to have some skilled shooting techniques. You could explore the swing-through technique or the sustained lead.
The swing-through technique is all about ensuring the barrel keeps swinging and stays in motion even when the shot is being taken. Make sure the bird’s movement and your barrel are in sync. You should move it from behind, all the way to the front. And when you’re ready to take the shot, take a deep breath, and then pull the trigger.
Sustained lead means your barrel will always be aimed a couple of inches ahead of the dove. Lock it in, and then pull the trigger before the bird crosses your sight.
It’s illegal and also unethical according to some shooters. The same applies to hunters who prefer sitting on stationary vehicles while shooting. So if you and your friends have been sitting on your tailgates while hunting doves, just know you’re lucky the long arm of the law hasn’t caught up with you. Only quadriplegics and hunters who have amputated legs are exempted.
Yes, your odds of shooting a dove will exponentially increase if you’ll be using colored shooting lenses. They often reduce glare and help shrink the hunter’s pupil to provide them with a better depth of perception—this is your ability to see all the dimensions of the target, as well as judge how far away they are.
A lot of people have fallen in love with dove hunting because it’s a social event that’s exciting, rewarding, and inexpensive. It also doesn’t discriminate when it comes to age, as you’re allowed to bring along your kids and teach them a thing or two about hunting.
If you’d like to contribute more tips and tricks, just send us a message.
Featured Image Credit By Steve Ikeguchi, Shutterstock
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Robert’s obsession with all things optical started early in life, when his optician father would bring home prototypes for Robert to play with. Nowadays, Robert is dedicated to helping others find the right optics for their needs. His hobbies include astronomy, astrophysics, and model building. Originally from Newark, NJ, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the nighttime skies are filled with glittering stars.
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