The basics of retrieving doves

A retriever can make a huge difference in the number of doves you shoot that wind up in your game bag, because the real hunt often begins after the shot.

Doves can be devilishly difficult to hit, and national statistics suggest roughly five shells are spent for every dove that flies for the final time.

Even after a telling shot, one vital step remains: picking up the downed dove. At times, such as when a dove falls a few steps away or when a staunch canine companion accompanies you afield, that is the essence of simplicity. However, most hunters lack a four-legged wizard with a wonderful nose as a helpmate, and finding birds often presents a major challenge.

Here are a number of tips that will put more heft in your game bag as well as fulfilling your ethical duty as a sportsman.

• When a bird falls, visually mark the spot. Often you can pick out a weed, bush, distant tree or the like to guide your course.

• Even when birds are flying well, resist the temptation to keep shooting before retrieving the dove.

• Upon reaching the place you think a bird fell, if you do not spot it immediately, mark the location with a strip of orange surveyor’s tape. Then start walking a grid or concentric circles around the tape. If such efforts fail, come back at the shoot’s end to try again. If someone on the hunt has a retriever, they may be able to help.

• Look for sign as you search. A single feather won’t tell you much, but several close together likely indicate where the dove fell. If it isn’t there, you may have a cripple. Check nearby cover, such as a clump of grass or underbrush, where a winged bird might hide.

• Help other hunters when they down a bird. Often, giving another shooter directions will lead him directly to a dove.

• Consider a second pair of eyes, in the form of a youngster not yet old enough to shoot, as a companion. A kid who gets to play pick-up boy, point out incoming birds and receive an apprenticeship in the sport will thoroughly enjoy the experience, while you will have the quiet satisfaction of knowing you are molding a future hunter.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply