We’ve already determined that dove are not hard to kill, they’re just hard to hit. The moment that you raise up to shoot, they start the kind of dodging and darting that would make a fighter pilot envious. It’s enough to make a preacher cuss and drive the rest of us to consider a strong drink. Well, here are a few field tactics that just might help keep your blood pressure within due bounds and your game bag full.
Dove really have only three things on their minds: food, water, and a place to roost. Well, they also have a romantic notion, now and then, but I don’t think that really concerns us. Food, water, and a place to sleep at night, those are the things we need to focus on. Successful dove hunting begins with a little pre-season scouting.
About a week before the season opens it’s a good idea to get out to your hunting area and see where the dove in that area are going to meet these three needs. You’ll quickly see a flight pattern that you can take advantage of on opening day. Find some concealment along one of those flight patterns and you are in business.
An especially lively time can be had by sitting near their favorite watering hole. Dove are going to water at least two times each day, in the morning and in the evening. When I was a kid in San Antonio, we located a stock tank that was surrounded by willows. Getting in under the willows, we could ambush the birds as they zoomed in to slack their thirst. And, with a little maneuvering, we could get situated so that most of our shots were at incoming birds, avoiding having to dope those pesky angles of flight that made misses so common. Shooting over a water hole has always been one of my favorite dove hunting locations.
It’s also important to understand that there is absolutely nothing wrong with a dove’s eyesight. For this reason, about the worst place to get is out in the open in, or near, a field. The dove are going to have you spotted while they are still well out of range. And any little movement will cause them to flare and fly wide of your location. Getting under a tree, or in the shade, will help conceal your presence.
Another critical technique is to stay as still as possible once some birds are headed your way. If you start moving around, even in concealment, they are probably going to bust you and head the other way. The best technique is to stay still until you are ready to shoot, then move and shoot all in the same motion. And it’s best to wait to do that until the birds are almost over you.
Camouflage clothing is nice, but it’s not necessary. Any kind of earth-tone clothing will do just fine. The key is to have good concealment, be still, and wait them out. If you’ve done your pre-season scouting and you’re on a good flight path, you are in for the kind of fun that makes dove hunting so popular.