Dove field-ology

The best dove hunts always begin with a solid food source, from native grasses and forbs to carbohydrate-rich grains in agriculture fields.

But it takes more than just a seed buffet to have a good dove hunt. Where there is strategy to tag a Boone & Crockett buck, dove hunters have proven tactics they can utilize to get a quick limit for the crock pot.

The best dove shoots are generally in fields 10 acres or larger. The bigger the fields, the more hunters needed to keep birds flying and off the feeding grounds. A general rule of thumb is one hunter per 1 to 1 1/2 acres. Hunters should be placed in a grid system, and if extra hunters are available, they should be placed along the perimeter, no closer than 50 yards apart. As long as enough hunters are available to cover the field, the action should keep the birds moving and flying off the ground enough to have a good shoot.

But hunters aren’t always as abundant as needed especially when a very large field is selected for a hunt. While doves will fly into the field and swoop down to land, they will often fly to a high perch first to scout the area out for predators before they land. These high perches can be deadly positions to hide hunters. Look also for power lines, interior tree lines, individual trees, rooftops or anything adjacent to the food where birds can perch before landing to feed. High perches can be deadly places to take a quick limit.

Water sources are also perfect places to draw in birds, especially when the weather is seasonably hot. Small ponds or depressions in a field can be hot places. The best water sources are ones with exposed mud banks that provide a clean landing and drinking area for doves.

Every hunter who has invested hours in a dove field in September notice that some people are always in a better place than others. Doves will travel along a familiar flight path to a food source. When hunters are lucky enough to be in the right spot, they will tend to get their limit much earlier than hunters several rows away. When hunting with a large group, successful hunters should leave the field when they fill their limit, allowing other hunters to move to the hottest spot. If a small group of hunters is covering a field, and they notice a predictable flight path, they should try to move to better cover that pattern.

The best way to maximize a field’s potential is to scout the field before opening day and draw out a diagram/map. While winging it can bring intermittent success, strategic planning can make a better experience for the entire group.

Dove Field Hunting Tips:

• Utilize one hunter per 1 1/2 acres.

• Hunt near perching structures: power lines, ditches and tree line.

• Monitor flight patterns and reposition as needed.

• Hunt near water holes with exposed mud banks.

• Keep all shots above a 45-degree angle from the ground to ensure safe hunting.

About Jeff Burleson 1312 Articles
Jeff Burleson is a native of Lumberton, N.C., who lives in Myrtle Beach, S.C. He graduated from N.C. State University with a degree in fisheries and wildlife sciences and is a certified biologist and professional forester for Southern Palmetto Environmental Consulting.

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