Author’s note: Marty Fischer, the host of TNT Outdoor Explosion on the Pursuit Channel, a professional wingshooter, a National Sporting Clays Association Level III shooting instructor, and a longtime Mossy Oak Pro Staff member, has designed more than 150 sporting clay facilities. Here are his tips for taking more doves.
Proper foot placement
Footwork is an important key to accurate shooting. Often a hunter will be sitting on a dove stool and has to move his body to compensate for the angle that the dove is coming at him. This means he will run out of swing, pull his head up off the gun, and the gun will stop. Instead, you want to have as much room as possible to swing your gun left or right, depending on the flight of the dove, in order to lead the bird properly. If you are sitting on a stool, you need to read the direction the dove is traveling as it flies. As long as you stay still and don’t move, most of the time the dove will continue flying on the same path in the same direction. If you wait until the bird is in range before you move, you shouldn’t affect his flight path.
As you are watching the bird, try to anticipate when and where you will take the shot. You’ll change your foot position depending on whether you are sitting or standing. I am left-handed, so my right foot goes forward in the direction where I want to take the shot. If you are right-handed, you’ll move your left foot in the direction of the shot. This way, you have much more room to continue to swing the gun once the bird comes within range. A right-handed hunter can turn much farther to the left than he can to the right, while a left-handed hunter can turn more to the right than he can to the left. You want to set your body up before taking the shot to give your body the most range of movement. We teach this principle to clay target shooters, and it also works for dove hunters. If you run out of swing, the gun slows down, and the cheek comes off the stock. Then you have a guaranteed recipe for a miss.
Buying the best ammo
A mourning dove is not a very big bird, nor is it a very hard bird to bring to the ground. I never will understand why some hunters choose high brass No. 9 shot to go dove hunting. When I go dove hunting, I shoot clay target loads. The pellets in clay target loads have more antimony (a red hardening agent) in them. Therefore, the pellets in the clay target loads are harder than those in the inexpensive shells most hunters buy.
The cheapest part of a dove hunt is the ammunition you shoot. I want to use a shell I know is going to pattern very consistently in the gun I choose to take dove hunting. I like to use a three-gram one-ounce or 1-1/8-ounce shell in a 12 gauge. I usually shoot either No. 8 shot or No. 7-1/2-shot. This type of shell is usually considered a heavy target load. The inexpensive shells are okay if you’re shooting doves that are only about 30 yards from your stand site. But if you try to stretch your shot out past 30 yards, the harder shot and the better pattern of the target load will help you. The difference in price is only about $1 more per box for the target loads than for the discounted shells.
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Image courtesy John E. Philips