From Alaska to Argentina, and virtually every place in between, dove hunting seasons mark the passage from summer to fall. And one of the beauties of dove hunting is that it doesn’t matter how small or how big your property is, how much or how little you want to spend, or whether you’re using the finest shotgun or your granddaddy’s old reliable, dove hunting seems to level the playing field. As an added bonus doves are so much fun to hunt because their numbers are relatively high. This also makes dove hunting a great choice to introduce newbies to hunting.
In order to have a successful hunt, regardless of the species you are pursuing, it is vital that you understand your quarry and doves are no different. Rookie hunters often underestimate the rocket-like speed of these small birds, and despite their soft cooing and fluffy, peace-like appearance, these birds easily fool us into thinking that they are slow, easy game.
However, nothing could be further from the truth.
Dove habitat varies though it is typically found in and around open fields and water. Seeds and waste grain such as sunflower, millet, corn, soybean and peanuts, among others make up the majority of their diet. They also feed on a variety of insects. They are more opportunistic and will sit on power lines and low hanging tree branches and look for food already exposed instead of scratching for it.
Doves also need water daily and are attracted to mud puddles, creeks, ponds and even watering troughs. Because of their nervous tendencies, doves often avoid water sources surrounded by tall grasses, shrubs or trees. Many prefer water sources that have banks that are slightly sloped, free of debris such as limbs and rock, making it more difficult for a predator to ambush them.
Although doves do not scratch for food like turkeys, they share at least one trait with wild turkeys: the need for grit in their diet. Used as a digestive aid, doves, like turkeys, spend a lot of time picking up small pieces of gravel near gravel roads and on creek banks before heading to their roosts.
Timing is everything when it comes to patterning doves.
They typically start moving before 9:00 a.m. to feed, roost in the afternoon and then return to their normal patterns in the late afternoon until it is time to roost in the evening. Because doves are a creature of habit, looking for clusters of doves in trees, power lines, or on the edges of fields during these times of day can be helpful in your preseason scouting. Doves also like the solitude of ponds, gravel pits, dirt roads and even sandbars close to their roosting sites.
Weather can also greatly affect dove movement so it is wise to locate several hunting locations and monitor them regularly. Likewise, doves often react to too much pressure and will move to another location if your scouting methods disturb them. This makes multiple locations even more important.
In addition to studying the dove’s habitats, such as where they like to hang out, what their food sources are and how to scout for them, there is still much to learn about these exciting fast flying migratory birds. Stay tuned for Part Two of Dove Hunting Basics that offers more helpful information for novice dove hunters.