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It’s Your Turn To Take Part in Tradition

By

Stephanie Mallory

Retriever with DoveThe annual dove hunt is more than just a day of wing shooting, it’s a social event focused around camaraderie and tradition, and for many a young child, the right of passage into the world of the hunter. For generations, sportsmen have gathered in the dove field to welcome in the long-awaited fall hunting season. If you long to join these hunters in this time-honored tradition, don’t let another season pass you by.

For beginners, getting started may seem a little complicated, but dove hunting is actually one of the most simple of the wing-shooting sports requiring very little gear.  Rocky Evans, president of Quail Unlimited and the Dove Sportsman Society, started hunting dove when he was just a little boy and says the basic equipment requirement is still the same.

“Gearing up is simple,” Evans says. “To enjoy this sport, your essentials include a shotgun, some shells and a place to hunt. But, if you bring along a few more key items, your overall experience will be much more pleasant.”

The majority of dove hunters shoot a 12-guage shotgun with an improved cylinder choke, but what Evans shoots depends on which dove season he hunts. In many southern states, the dove season is split, such as in Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina where the September dove season runs for five weeks then it comes back in for a short time in November. Some states even have a third season beginning the second week of December, which runs for four or five weeks.

“I like to shoot a 20- or 28-guage shotgun using No. 8 shot during the first half of the season in September because it’s a little more sporting,” Evans says. “The birds are flying lower and slower during this time of the year. They haven’t been hunted, so they’re not on guard as much. For the second season, I recommend shooting No. 7 ½ shot with a 12-guage shotgun because the birds are flying higher, they’re faster and they’re more educated.”

When it comes to the model gun you use, don’t think you have to go out and spend a lot of money on the top-of-the line firearm. You can shoot doves successfully even with the most inexpensive gun.

Dove Hunters In a Field“I got my first gun when I was nine-years old,” Evans says. “It was a single shot JC Higgins that cost $29 including the case, and it worked perfectly. The key to success on the dove field is practice. No matter how fancy your gun is, you won’t do well unless you spend a few days sharpening your eye. It doesn’t take much. Try your luck at a trap, skeet or sporting clays course or get your buddy to throw up some clay targets from the back of the truck. Practice will boost your confidence, and you’ll be amazed at how much better you’ll shoot with a little more self-assurance guiding you onward. ”

Cool, Comfortable and Concealed

Aside from your gun and ammunition, the rest of your dove-hunting gear is based on the three Cs – cool, comfortable and concealed.

First off, don’t underestimate the importance of concealment on the dove field. Doves have keen eyesight and can easily pick out light color or shapes that are not natural to the surroundings.

Dress in camouflage, but keep in mind that September temperatures can often be pretty warm depending on where in the country you hunt, so make sure that your clothing is breathable and lightweight.

“Most dove hunters on the field wear camouflage, but there’s always that one guy who will wear a camouflage shirt with white shorts, which just blows my mind,” Evans says. “The worst thing you can wear on a dove field is light-colored clothing because doves can spot light colors from miles away.”

In addition to wearing camo, hunters should also consider setting up a blind. This isn’t as important if you’re hunting on the edge of a tree line, but if you’re hunting the middle of a dove field where there’s no natural cover, you’ll need to break up your human outline.

Evans says you can easily construct a makeshift blind out of four broomsticks and some camouflaged material.

“Paint the broomstick handles either black or olive drab,” Evans says. “When you get to the dove field, pound those sticks into the ground with a hammer then drape the leafy camo pattern around the poles for an effective blind. You can also buy some great blinds that already come with a frame. Whether you construct your own blind or buy one, I definitely recommend using a blind because it can mean the difference between success and failure.”

Evans also has one other trick up his sleeve.

Dove hunter in the field“I’ll paint a piece of two-inch PVC pipe black or olive drab. I’ll drill three holes in it half way up and will sharpen one end. Once I get to the dove field, I’ll pound it into the ground and will drop a camo umbrella into the tube for added concealment and shade, and if it start’s raining, I won’t get wet. If you take your dog with you, make sure you provide plenty of water and shade for it as well. A dog can easily suffer from heat-related illnesses.”

Shade is extremely important on the dove field because you’ll be sitting or standing in the field for several hours in the scorching September sun. Take and drink plenty of water and wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunscreen. Hunters are also encouraged to wear sunglasses during the shoot not only to protect their eyes from the harsh glare of the sun, but to better spot doves as they fly into the field. Polarized glasses work the best for both of these purposes.

 A hunter’s comfort on the dove field can directly impact his success, and the dove stool probably plays the biggest role in comfort.

“Dove stools have come a long way since I first began hunting many years ago,” Evans says. “I used to carry my dad’s dove stool, which had a swivel lid on the top and two small compartments inside for shells. Now, you can buy really nice and comfortable dove stools which have nice, large compartments and a cushy fold-out chair. You can find these types of stools at Wal-Mart or other sporting goods stores like Bass Pro Shops. The most important thing to consider when picking out a stool is its height. You don’t want a stool that sits so low that standing is difficult when it comes time to shoot. I’ve actually seen people use their guns as a prop to push up on when they’re standing up from their stools. This is very dangerous. If you get a tall stool, you’ll be able to sit and stand with ease.”

For added comfort support, consider bringing along an extra cushion if your stool doesn’t already come with a padded seat. The more comfortable you are, the more doves you’ll kill.

 


 

Decoys

Dove on a fence postUsing decoys on the dove field is a fairly new trend, but Evans says when used properly, decoys can be extremely effective.

Make sure to set them up in a clear area where they can be easily spotted by doves and away from brushy trees or bushes. Decoys also work extremely well on power lines, and Evans has a tip for setting up your decoys in these impossible-to-reach places.

Dove Decoy“By attaching your decoy to fishing line, you can cast your decoy over the power line with a fishing rod and reel it up to the wire. It will sit right under the wire, but from a distance, it looks like the bird is sitting on top of the wire. I suggest putting three doves up on a wire this way. Don’t worry about getting shocked. Monofilament line is not a conductor of electricity, so this is perfectly safe.”

You can also clip decoys onto a fence or bare limb. Just make sure that it’s not near any foliage.

“Doves will come into well-placed decoys better than mallards come into duck decoys,” Evans says.

Once you get all your doves in a row per se, sit back and get ready for some fast-shooting action. If you remember the three Cs – cool, comfortable and concealed, then you’re ready for a day in the dove field.

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