After a long and unusually hot summer, dove season is here once again, a welcome event for many of us who sweat through the 100 degree heat for most of the summer. Here in Missouri the early spring rains were adequate and many of the corn and wheat crops were planted in time for a good harvest. Corn and sunflowers are the favorite diet of migrating doves and crops are plentiful this year. The doves also like the cut row crops and dry dusty ground where they can feed on flat bare ground scattered with seed. Doves are plentiful this year, according to Missouri Conservation. Doves can have as many as 6 clutches a year. They have shallow nests and the weather did not hamper the hatch. When hunting doves there are some things to remember that will aid you in a successful hunt:
- Scout out crop land before the season opens and get permission from the landowner to hunt his fields if you don’t already have a honey hole.
- Exercise your retriever prior to the season to get him in shape.
- Buy plenty of shells! If you can get a limit of doves with less than 3 boxes, consider yourself about average. A limit with two boxes or less and you can give me shooting lessons!
- Know your pattern of your shotgun and get the right load.
- Get you a small stool or game seat to sit on. It doubles as a way to carry your shells and snacks and put your doves in.
- The use of decoys along a fence row (clip on) or a mojo or two (battery powered decoy simulating a landing dove) about 20 yards out will usually prompt a flyover or bring doves in.
- Always be aware of other hunters and their positions in the field.
- Remember to shoot at 45 degrees upward or your buddy across the field may thump you on the head!
- Conceal yourself along a tree line or fence row. If there are loose corn stalks lying on the ground, they make a great backdrop when you stick them in the fence.
- Don’t hunt standing corn or sunflowers with no cuts unless you have a retriever. Many doves are lost because they are hard to find. Wait until your field is cut or partially cut and hunt that area.
- Absolutely pick up your empties!
The first few days of the season are usually heavily hunted as the first groups of birds arrive. However, as some crops are cut later, the hunting can remain just as good, if not better, when some of the hunters clear out of the public areas. If you are hunting private ground, you should have good hunting for several weeks. I have seen it good for over a month as long as the weather holds. If it is hot, the doves will fly very early, and very late. A nice crisp morning and you could have action until about 11 a.m. and start in again around 3 p.m. (that is if you have any shells left!)
Remember, safety first. Double check all guns when putting back in vehicle and cases. Freak accidents can kill you or someone else!
If you have a chance to take a young hunter, be sure to familiarize him or her with all aspects of the hunting experience. The hunter’s education course is a good place to start. Once a young hunter knocks down a dove, I think it is safe to say they are hooked for life.
Have a great season and don’t take more than you will eat!