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Dove Hunting for Noobs

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Acquainting New Dove Hunters to Dove Hunting

Learn the basics of dove hunting before you take your shotgun out for your first attempt to bag your limit of doves. Basic information for first time dove hunters.

Dove season opens in early September in most states, and this means hundreds of dove hunters flock to the fields itching to bag their limit of birds. A large portion of these hunters will be first timers. Yes the newbie dove hunters have taken to the field. As with all hunting, there is some learning to be done. Below are a few tips to help the newbie make their first few hunts a little more enjoyable, and hopefully more successful.

To begin, learn a little about doves before you start hunting. They are migratory birds and those are able to be patterned, normally found in areas with a large populations of trees. At or about first light they leave the nest to feed. The doves fly to the fields in search of millet, canola, barley, sunflowers, and other suitable forms of nourishment. From time to time the birds will seek water. While hunting you'll notice that doves will feed a far distance from a source of water, so they have no fear of flying distances to find food and water. Then they fly back to their roost, or find another group of trees to rest before doing it all again later in the afternoon. When the wind is up they tend to stay in their roost hiding from the wind.

One way; and I've found to be the best way for myself and possibly the best for the newbie; is to hunt dove is very similar to waterfowl hunting. Basically you fool the birds and bring them in close with decoys. Scouting the hunting area preseason is a good idea. Look for nests, roosts, feeding and watering areas. That way you have an idea of where to hunt. Most often you'll find that dove frequent the same spots that they use in late August right up to the migration, so the same areas should you find them in August should produce good results in September. While scouting, pay attention to fly patterns that the birds use during the day.

Set yourself up to shoot along tree lines, fields, or waterholes. You'll have to experiment to find which place works best for your personal dove hunting. Some dove hunters swear by one and others by a different hunting area. It pretty much depends on which is best for you. But again scouting will tell you where the birds roost, feed, and water, set up according to that information and to which is most comfortable for you to shoot while hunting.

Decoys work well because a large population of dove attracts more birds. There are many varieties of decoys, but I prefer the full body decoys, they just seem to work best. Dove like to perch; often too high up to reach. But if you take large branches and stick them in the ground by the edges of watering holes or near the tree lines, then when you have the branches secure attach a few dove decoys to them you will possibly have some luck bringing the dove in closer. Then adjust your camouflage, set yourself up in your hunting area, and wait for the dove.

The rest is up to your shooting ability and the doves fight pattern. Doves are quick flying birds with erratic patterns. Practice is the only way to improve your productivity when it comes to shooting. I often find that if I haven't hunted in a few months, a good round or two of skeet shooting warms me up when I get rusty. It also helps you in hitting your target consistently.

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Now in this dove hunting for noobs article, I'll get a little more in depth on some of the things mentioned above. Plus some tips I didn't mention. Some may seem a bit nit-picky and not so important, as with all hunting, they are very important. One little thing could make the difference in bagging a limit of birds.

Scouting a hunting area is very important. Before you go out dove hunting, you should go out information hunting. "What information?" you may ask. Dove habits would be the answer. What are their fly patterns? That in itself is invaluable info. Most often the birds will use landmarks, fences, ditches, tree lines, etc. Find out what the dove you are hunting are using and plan to set up in their flight line. Do this every year before hunting season because dove sometimes change their flight patterns from year to year.

Try to place your dove decoys on the branches of dead trees, on fences, or other likely places that look like a good dove perch before you begin hunting. You can take dead branches and stick them in the ground, securing them enough so that your decoy will stay. This will give the appearance that doves are feeding in that spot. Decoys work especially well around watering holes. It is also important to scout out a hiding spot before you place your decoys so that you can get to it and get settled quickly after placing the fake birds.

After you have settled in to your hiding spot and the dove begin to approach, be very still and quite. Don't prepare to mount and shoot until the birds are within range. Try to be behind a tree or a bush, and stay in the shadows. This will prevent your shadow from being noticed by the dove. Stay below the brush line if possible. You might want to bring a stool or a bucket to place in your hiding place when you scout it out, it will be more comfortable to sit on it than to try kneeling or squatting. Wear camouflage if you can, but if there are other hunters in the area, it might not be wise. If you are hard for the dove to see, it will be hard for you to be seen by other bird hunters, and a shooting accident is not a good way to end a hunting trip.

If you are hunting without a dog, be sure you know where your bird has gone down before trying another shot. You've worked hard to get that dove, and you don't want to miss collecting it because you've lost the spot where it went down. You can tie an orange or yellow construction ribbon to a rock and toss it over to the area the dove landed before going for your second shot. This will help locate the bird when the shooting is over. If this doesn't work, you may need to stop trying for two, and work on knowing where the first bird landed. One thing you will probably want to wear is snake chaps or boots, as the areas you will be hunting could possibly be inhabited by snakes.

When shooting at the dove keep your cheek down to the gun stock. Make sure your footing is good, clear away any rocks sticks or anything that might cause you to be off balance. Take a half-step, then swing on the bird. Place your foot in the direction of your shot. Step forward for straight-away birds, step back for a straight on bird. If a dove comes from the left, step right and visa-versa.

I hope what you have learned here will help you have a safe and successful dove hunt. One last thing, don't be afraid to ask others that have hunted the area for tips, they might just be willing to give you some pointers on what helped them bag few dove.


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