Dove hunting is a great way to introduce young people to the outdoors and the activity of hunting. Most beginning hunters and young people thoroughly enjoy the fast-paced shooting and excitement of a good dove hunt. It challenges the hunter’s shooting ability much more than his or her hunting skills. The challenge of shooting and hitting a fast-moving target provides fun and excitement for the hunter.
A dove shoot usually takes place on a large open field or a combination of smaller fields in a common area. The shoot is a social event that provides an opportunity for a large number of hunters to participate. It is also a way to bring friends and family together. While this type of hunting provides social interaction and fun, it also has to be regulated and done in a safe manner.
By law, shooting doves must be done with a shotgun, 10 gauge or smaller, plugged, and incapable of holding more than three shot shells. Dove hunters usually gather in a common area then select a location on the field. All guns should be unloaded with the action open and safety on when traveling to the selected spot on the field. Once the hunters have spread out on the field it becomes a game of waiting and watching. Shotguns are only loaded when on the stand and ready to hunt. Be sure to wear eye and ear protection once you enter the field.
During this time of watching and waiting, the hunter must practice the most important firearms handling rule – keep the gun pointed in a safe direction at all times. A hunter should always know where his or her gun is pointed. On a dove field the hunters surround the field being hunted, watch for doves that fly over and shoot at the doves that are in shotgun range. Hunters are usually very near other hunters.
Dove hunters must practice another cardinal rule of firearms safety as they raise their gun and shoot at a dove: know what the target is and what is beyond it. If a dove comes into the field then drops down low across the field, the hunters on the field should shout “low bird!” When this happens no one should attempt a shot at that low bird.
On a good dove shoot there are a large number of birds flying into the field. The doves come in from different directions and at various altitudes. The action gets fast and furious and the shooting is fast as well as the reloading. At this point, the hunter must concentrate on safe shooting and reloading procedures. If hunting with another hunter who is shooting a different gauge shotgun, caution must be taken so the different gauge shot shells don’t get mixed. A 20-gauge shot shell can mistakenly be loaded into a 12-gauge shotgun and end up lodged halfway down the barrel. Not only does the hunter have a gun with an obstructed barrel, it is obstructed with a live round. The hunter should also be careful not to get any dirt in the barrel that creates an unsafe situation.
In conclusion, if invited to a dove shoot, GO. Dove shooting is extremely fun and exhilarating. Be courteous and handle your firearm safely. Safety is attitude, so go to the dove shoot with the right attitude.
Contact James Altiere, Regional Hunter Education Coordinator with the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries, at firstname.lastname@example.org, for more information regarding dove hunting in Alabama.
The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through five divisions: Marine Police, Marine Resources, State Lands, State Parks, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. To learn more about ADCNR visit www.outdooralabama.com.
James A. Altiere is the Regional Hunter Education Coordinator for the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries.
Photo: Chris Isherwood