It's that time of year when we break out our shotguns, shells “plenty of them” and dawn our summer weight camouflage for the very first time of the season. We usually have a group of 10 hunters or so meet at the farm here in Maryland on September 1st every year to sharpen our bird hunting skills. Although we all tend to shoot more than our share of shells everyone usually ends up having a great time and getting a limit of birds on the first day during our annual dove hunt.
We normally hunt field edges and hedge rows where there are a lot of trees especially on windy days the doves seem to seek shelter in the trees more often. Here in Maryland you can't start hunting doves until noon and end at sunset everyday which makes it a little more challenging since doves usually head to water and the fields to feed at first light and head back to the trees before noon. They’ll repeat this process throughout the day usually in smaller numbers. Doves love to feed on sunflowers, wheat, and squash fields where we hunt.
The doves at our farm tend to reuse the same areas and flyways year after year. We generally hunt four types of locations throughout the season, which includes trees, fields, waterholes, and gravel pits. We’ve found that each of these location tend to be more active at different times of the day. We usually have hunters stationed at multiple locations throughout the day. This seems to keep the doves flying to and from multiple locations throughout the hunt.
Although neither the group I hunt with or myself are experts in dove hunting by any means I wanted to share a few opinions and observations that may be useful to those of you dove hunting enthusiast or those of you considering taking up the sport of dove hunting, which I highly recommend.
I recommend spending some time shooting clay pigeons before the season; this will give you an opportunity to test your equipment and practice shooting targets moving in multiple directions such as overhead, incoming, and passing shots.
Practice shooting multiple distances to get a feel for your shooting and your gun's limitations, strengths and weakness. Some people will pattern their shotguns with the loads and chokes they intend to use. Loads and shot used for dove hunting is usually a personal preference. If you’ve never dove hunted before check with your local sportsman store or a friend who has dove hunted in the past.
Pay close attention to camouflage and concealment when it comes to dove hunting. Think about acquiring some warm weather camouflage to include a hat and head net, it will definitely have an impact on your ability to close the distance on the doves and the number of dove you will see. Today's market provides a large selection of warm weather camouflage at reasonable prices.
Take advantage of hunting doves in the early part of the season. Birds are like whitetail deer, they get educated when we miss them and when the hunting activity/pressure increases.
Approach dove hunting with it being an opportunity to spend the day in the outdoors; don't base a successful dove hunt on how many shots you took and how many birds you bagged. For me dove hunting is an annual event that gets the hunting season started and provides an opportunity to spend some quality time with my local hunting brotherhood.