Jar­rod Spil­ger shares his pas­sion for dove hunt­ing: so­cial, mem­o­rable and with the added plea­sure of work­ing your dog, it ticks a lot of boxes for the sport­ing shooter

Sporting Shooter - - Doves In The Usa -

In my opin­ion, 1 Septem­ber should be a na­tional hol­i­day here in the USA, be­cause Septem­ber’s ar­rival marks the be­gin­ning of dove sea­son in many states.

Doves in early Septem­ber pro­vide a tar­get-rich sport­ing en­vi­ron­ment. The weather is still warm and there are plenty of birds to shoot, or at least shoot at. This makes doves the ideal quarry for in­tro­duc­ing new and young hunters to the sport of wing­shoot­ing.

Mourn­ing doves are the main species hunted here in my na­tive Ne­braska, but a grow­ing pop­u­la­tion of Eurasian col­lared doves of­fers a mixed bag op­por­tu­nity. The main dove sea­son runs from 1 Septem­ber to 30 Oc­to­ber, with a daily ag­gre­gate limit of 15 mourn­ing and/or Eurasian col­lared doves. There’s also a sep­a­rate Eurasian col­lared dove sea­son that runs from 31 Oc­to­ber to 31 Au­gust. Again, the bag limit is 15 doves, but they all must be Eurasian col­lared doves dur­ing this time. Es­sen­tially, Eurasian col­lared doves can be hunted year-round, since they are a non-na­tive, in­va­sive species.

The sea­son dates are sim­i­lar in most Mid­west states. In south­ern states, the sea­son may start later and con­tinue into early win­ter. Bag lim­its gen­er­ally run be­tween 10 and 15 doves, but be sure to con­sult the reg­u­la­tions for the state you plan to hunt for spe­cific sea­son dates and bag lim­its.

Even though Ne­braska’s sea­son runs to 30 Oc­to­ber, by 1 Oc­to­ber most doves have departed the state, driven south by cooler tem­per­a­tures. Mourn­ing doves are fair weather birds, and even the slight­est cold front prompts them to mi­grate south­ward. Larger col­lared doves are less mi­gra­tory and a bit hardier. They may stick around un­til De­cem­ber or even Jan­uary, de­pend­ing on the weather, but once frigid tem­per­a­tures and deep snow ar­rives, they, too, will fly south. Both species ar­rive back on their north­ern spring breed­ing grounds about the same time around early April.


There are three ba­sic dove set-ups. The first is over a feed­ing area, such as a sun­flower patch or har­vested grain field. The sec­ond is be­neath a fly­way where doves travel be­tween a roost­ing or

rest­ing area and a feed­ing or wa­ter­ing area. The third is by a wa­ter­ing hole, such as a small pond or stock tank.

That last op­tion is of­ten the best bet here on the Great Plains. I fo­cus most of my dove hunt­ing at­ten­tion on wa­ter­holes, with the best shoot­ing usu­ally com­ing late in the day. Af­ter their af­ter­noon feed­ing, thirsty doves of­ten fly in for a drink be­fore head­ing to their roost. I’m set up by a wind­mill by 4pm and hunt un­til ei­ther I bag my limit or shoot­ing time ends at sun­set, which­ever comes first. That last half hour be­fore sun­set usu­ally pro­vides the hottest ac­tion.

For con­ceal­ment, I wear cam­ou­flage clothes and sim­ply sit with my back against the wind­mill tower, prefer­ably on the shady side. It’s im­per­a­tive that the wind­mill tank over­flows into a pud­dle or small pond, so doves have wa­ter avail­able to drink at ground level. There should also be some bare ground around the pond, so doves can land with ease and feel se­cure as they walk in for a drink.


De­ploy­ing a few dove de­coys en­cour­ages pass­ing doves to visit your par­tic­u­lar wa­ter­hole or field setup. Near wa­ter­holes, I’ll place a cou­ple of de­coys on ground stakes around the pond to sim­u­late doves walk­ing in for a drink. In field set-ups, a few de­coys placed on dead tree branches or a barbed wire fence is usu­ally all it takes to prompt pass­ing doves to wing over your po­si­tion.

In re­cent years, I’ve added mo­tion de­coys to my spread. Ini­tially, I used an in­ex­pen­sive wind-ac­ti­vated wing-spin­ning de­coy, but prairie winds can be fickle. The wind of­ten sub­sides just be­fore sun­set, leav­ing win­dac­ti­vated de­coys mo­tion­less dur­ing that cru­cial last half hour of day­light.

To solve that prob­lem, I started to use a bat­tery-op­er­ated Mojo Voodoo Dove mo­tion de­coy in­stead. I used it ev­ery time I hunted last sea­son and the re­sults were spec­tac­u­lar. Doves are drawn to the mo­tion of the spin­ning wings like a moth to a flame. Plus, the wings spin con­tin­u­ously re­gard­less of the wind or lack thereof. Shots were of­ten so close that by the end of the sea­son I was us­ing a wide-open cylin­der bore choke in my shot­gun.

For best re­sults, com­bine a mo­tion de­coy with a few static de­coys scat­tered about on the ground around it. This sim­u­lates birds that have both landed and are in the process of land­ing.

Kit bag

Any shot­gun will bag doves, but for the sake of econ­omy (in terms of ammo), most hunters stick with a 12- or 20-bore. It’s easy to go through two or three boxes of ammo over the course of a good dove shoot. Doves are chal­leng­ing tar­gets, fre­quently prone to dip­ping and div­ing just as you fire in ap­par­ent an­tic­i­pa­tion of your shot cloud. Those who bag the limit of 15 doves with a box of 25 rounds can con­sider them­selves ex­perts.

As for shot­shells, a typ­i­cal tar­get load works just fine, pro­vided ve­loc­ity is 1,200 feet per

Set­ting up by a wind­mill stock tank with a slight over­flow is a good bet for doves

A few static de­coys placed on ei­ther a dead branch, fence or ground stakes can help at­tract wary doves

Any tar­get load over 1,200 fps will work fine on doves. For econ­omy of ammo, stick with a 12-bore or 20-bore

Cousin Brynn poses with her first dove on her first hunt

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