To celebrate the end of the long hunting drought, dove hunters take to the field around the first of September.
To hopefully have a successful hunt, a lot of preparation is needed, unless you hunt on public land. Even on public land, like the Sandhills Game Lands, you still need to scout and view the dove population and where they are roosting, feeding, and flying.
Here are some tips to have a good hunt, whether it’s on private or public land:
— First, get an up-to-date state hunting license including a HIP Certification.
— Second, on private land, you need to get permission to hunt or lease the land from the landowner.
— Third, look for plowed ground beside a harvested cornfield or standing sunflowers.
— Fourth, look for hunting points that jut out in the fields, such as dead trees, power lines, and fence lines.
— Number five, if you are hunting in the afternoon, hunt close to a water supply that has a sandy bank.
The best time to hunt dove is when the birds are flying between their roost and their feeding area. In the morning, the best time is from 7 a.m. ‘till 10 a.m., while evening hunts are best between 5:30 p.m. ‘till 7 p.m.
The federal limit for dove is 15 per day (I rarely ever come close to the limit). Guns also should be plugged so they will only shoot three times. Shooting hours are from 30 minutes before sunrise to sunset for the entire season.
A good dove hunter will have scouted the dove fields or watering holes several weeks before the season comes in. He notices at what times the birds come to feed. Also, he watches for natural flight lanes such as gaps in trees, prominent dips in the field, wood lines, corners and even higher ground in the fields. He always has a plan B or C in case his original place does not work out.
Some hunters use dove decoys in the fields. They are plastic molds made and painted like a real dove. Some are powered by a battery and even flap their wings as if the bird was landing or getting ready to fly. Most single decoys are attached to limbs, placed upright on the ground, or clamped to a fence line.
A few dove hunters bring their dogs to retrieve the downed birds. It is a real pleasure to watch these retrievers search for and bring the birds back to their owners.
For myself, I’ve been Dove hunting since I was a teenager. I prefer to hunt on private land, but I have hunted on public lands many-a-day. To me, there are several drawbacks to hunting on public land. For example, folks come from all parts of the state to hunt, so you don’t know where in the field or property they might be. For some, it might be their first dove hunt and you need to consider: if a low flying dove comes in, will they shoot? And will it possibly be towards another hunter?
A safe way to hunt doves is to wear hearing protection and safety glasses. Why, I’ve been peppered with falling shot a-many-a-time and it only takes one little piece of lead to put your eye out!
With most Dove hunts, camaraderie and good fellowship abounds. Why, it was just last Saturday, I had the pleasure of hunting with about eight of my fellow members of the Sandhills Rod and Gun Club, out from Ellerbe.
Several of our members had taken their time and equipment to prepare a couple of fields for us to hunt. Months earlier, they had planted the fields in sunflowers, wheat, and other grain that doves like to feed on.
A day or so before the hunt, the fields were mowed and prepared for opening day.
At about 6 a.m., the hunters started to arrive. A short meeting was held and then everyone took their stands around the prepared field. Some stood along the wood-line while others took to the dirt road and power lines.
Shooting time came at sun-up and a few doves started darting in and out of the field. As time went by, more doves came within shooting range. I think between all of us, we may have killed the limit for one person. Some of the doves had fallen in the woods, but with the help of the great retrievers some members had brought, most birds were found.
After about 10 am, the birds stopped flying. It was time for a break and a brunch of grilled hotdogs. Why, there ain’t nothing better than a freshly grilled hotdog with all the fixings in the middle of the woods.
After we ate, some of the guys, including my grandson, decided they would like to shoot a round or two of skeet at the club’s skeet and trap range. I figured it would be good practice for a future dove hunt. Man, did I need the practice!
Hope you enjoyed reading about our first dove hunt this year and can use some of the info on your next hunt. Meanwhile, hunt safely and keep our rights to hunt and bear arms alive.
J.A. Bolton is author of “Just Passing Time,” co-author of “Just Passing Time Together,” and just released a new book, “Southern Fried: Down-Home Stories.” Contact him at [email protected]