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Dove hunting is pure fun. There isn’t much better than a pile of spent hulls, tired dogs and the smell of burned powder wafting on an early fall breeze. Here’s what you need to know to keep your game vest full this September.
Mourning doves aren’t hard to find. Seeds make up 99 percent of their diet, and a drive through agricultural-rich ground shortly after sunup will put plenty of birds in the binos. While cut wheat, millet and sorghum are dove delicacies, birds can also be found swarming corn and sunflower fields. Mourning doves prefer a feed zone close to a roost site, so keep this in mind while scouting. While the birds are open-ground feeders, they roost in the treetops, so concentrations of trees near agriculture up the odds a red-hot dove spot.
One of the best things you can do to ensure you’re hunting the right field is to park the truck on a hill, plateau, or rise and simply watch. Shortly after sunrise, the sky will be alive. Use your binoculars and take note of the exact field or fields the birds are hitting. In addition, pay close attention to the birds' flyway to and from the field. You can have some great dove shoots by situating yourself in a flyway between roost and feed.
After a bit of bird watching, take a drive toward the field or fields the birds are using. It’s likely telephone wires will be dotted with doves, and any trees surrounding the food source will also be packed. If you drive by the field and waves of doves lift off the ground, you’re in the right spot.
With your field found, it’s time to hunt. One of the biggest mistakes a hunter can make is putting too much pressure on the field. Pick a spot on the field’s edge and stay put. Don’t walk the field to flush birds or push them over another hunter. A great dove field will produce many shoots if you stay put and shoot birds as they pass by you. Yes, it’s ok to move, especially if you’re not in a spot where doves are flying, but don’t walk the field. Just move to get in a better position and stay put. Doves need to eat between 15 and 20 percent of their body weight per day. They are aggressive feeders and will come and go to and from feeding areas for hours. Stay patient.
The same advice holds if you find yourself hunting a flyway between roost and feed. You can waste a lot of time and energy walking, trying to flush a bird that landed in a small tree or stopped to peck on the ground for wild grass seed. By the time you walk over and try to flush those birds, 10 will fly by where you were standing.
Small waterholes are a win, especially late in the afternoon when doves start working back toward the roost. After filling their bellies with grain, they need some refreshment, and a no-name pond can quickly become the place to be. Hidden waterholes can be challenging to find. One of the best tips for finding them is to pull up a digital mapping app. Use the app's aerial and start prospecting.
If you find a good water source, investigate. The banks should be littered with tracks and droppings. It’s also likely a dove or 50 will fly off the pond banks upon your arrival. The best action will be during the last two hours of shooting light. do your homework and you’ll experience barrel-melting action and bring home plenty of breasts for the grill.