Ahh, September dawns, bringing with it the first open hunting season for many of us in the US since we were chasing spring gobblers. In my house, dove season stirs up a nervous excitement – checking sunflower field reports, making sure the plug is in my shotgun after the last no-limit snow goose hunt of the winter, checking (and then rechecking) to make sure I have plenty of nontoxic ammo and scouting public lands.
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Dove season is one of the easiest ways to involve new hunters in the process, as it requires minimal equipment, advice can be shared in normal speaking tones and there is no need to be still or scentless. Entering only my third season of hunting those kamikaze flying, missile-like birds, I’ve gathered a few of my must have pieces of gear and advice for dove season.
1 A comfortable chair. Most people will tell you a five-gallon bucket flipped upside down is “fine.” Sure, it’s “fine,” but I’ll tell you that a swivel chair with a back is a game changer. Dove hunting is enjoyable to the point that you will want to stay out longer than you plan, and I love the comfort of the Chama Pursuit chair for dove and duck season both (MSRP $179.99). It even converts to a stool for you minimalists out there.
2. Steel or non-toxic shot. This is required on most public migratory bird hunting areas, as doves are particularly susceptible to lead poisoning. It’s worth knowing how your particular gun will shoot with steel versus lead shot. Chokes need to be properly fitted for doves as well, or the shell-to-dove-ratio will suffer (along with the confidence of the shooter). A modified or improved choke tube will give you a wider pattern. Number 6-8 shells is the most common load for these speedy birds.
3. Decoys with motion. The realistic flapping wings will bring the doves in exponentially more often than motionless clip-on decoys. I have had success with full body MOJO Voodoo Doves (MSRP $39.99). They are affordable and replacement parts for all the moving pieces are available for purchase. A hunter only needs two of these max to be successful.
4. Have I mentioned how erratic and unpredictable doves fly? Your best investment before season starts is a session or three with a good shotgun coach. At the very least, a few rounds of sporting clays prior to season opening will help refine your skills. Again, it’s worth mentioning that practice in the off-season will reduce the shell-to-dove ratio on opening day.
5. Camo or earth tone shirt and hat. Nothing fancy needed here – breathable material is often desired in the still warm mornings of September.
As always, remember proper licensing and permits, as well as ear and eye protection. Dove season is easily enjoyed by new hunters and seasoned pros alike. Hopefully these tips leave you with inspiration to try or revisit the sport. With the right spot and the right people, this list will set you up for a trip you won’t soon forget!