Use these four tips to up your dove hunting game.
1. Location, Location, Location
Finding the food and water resources that dove prefer is key when it comes to finding dove. Focus on fields top seeded with wheat, fields of sunflower, cut or standing corn, and harvested sorghum. Never overlook water sources; ponds and stock tanks provide equally great hunting. Hunting water sources works best in dry areas like southwest and northwest Oklahoma, where water may be scarce. After a heavy rain, keep in mind ponds may be flooded and will not provide the birds with adequate bank access, forcing them to look elsewhere.
Tip: For early season hunts, set decoys on and near a stock tank for a late afternoon or evening hunt. Stock tanks are generally near food sources and early season temperatures are hot, especially in late afternoon and early evening, forcing dove to hydrate often.
On many Wildlife Management Areas, fields of wheat and sunflowers are often mowed in preparation of dove season. If hunting public land, contact the area's biologist for information.
Oklahoma offers hunters an abundance of excellent dove hunting opportunities. Before planning your next trip, consider these Wildlife Management Areas below as your next dove hunting destination. You can also check out our list all public lands open to dove season here.
A hunter who scouts, always has the advantage. Mornings and evenings are the best times to scout because that is when birds are typically off their roost. Start with areas that have been productive in the past and search for fields with a concentration of birds. Pay attention to the direction birds are coming from and what their travel route is. Often, dove will fly along tree lines when entering a field. This is where hunters should set up.
Having a "plan B" is critical. Scout around for several fields, giving you more options. Keep in mind water sources and even gravel pits can host concentrations of birds. Doing your homework will certainly tip the odds in your favor.
Tip: Dead trees are dove magnets. Use decoys to help the dove feel more secure about perching in a particular area. Situate yourself in nearby shadows or behind the tree for better concealment.
Go beyond the basics and invest in dove decoys. Elevated decoys are key. On the ground, decoys disappear among the vegetation so keeping them elevated ensures the doves will see them. While scouting different areas, pay attention to where birds are landing. This is where you’ll want to place your decoys.
Doves have excellent vision. Camouflage isn't a must have item however it helps tremendously. Choose camouflage most suited to your surroundings or dress in a tan or olive color outfit. If you don't have camouflage, that's ok. If possible, conceal yourself in shadows our under tree branches. Most importantly, stay still!
While dove hunting may sometimes be fast and furious often there will be breaks in the action and you will want to sit down. Trying to rise and shoot from a sitting position on the ground can be difficult so a small stool or bucket (even better, one with a spinning seat) is nearly essential.
Another helpful item is a vest or bucket (again) to help carry equipment and any bagged birds. Some areas (mainly private) can be driven to to unload everything, but most areas require hunters to walk at least a small distance. Decoys, a couple boxes of shells, your gun, water and any other necessities gets to be quite an armful.
Don't forget your water! September and even into October in Oklahoma can be hot, usually you are positioned in or near an opening where shade is often limited and you will be sweating (probably a lot). Remember to bring some water with you. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are real possibilities that can endanger you and those you are hunting with. Stay hydrated, stay safe, and have fun.
4. Be a Lethal Combination
Any attempts at bagging a bird are futile without the right combination of shotgun, ammunition, and choke.
20 and 12 gauge shotguns are the most widely used shotguns for dove hunting. When it comes to action types, the semi-automatic action gives hunters an advantage over pump and break actions. Semi-automatic shotguns have less recoil and shoot quicker than pump actions. Break actions are similar to semi-autos in that the shooter doesn’t have to pump a new shell into the chamber. However, break actions have the inability to hold more than two shells, which means more reloading. Remember, doves are a migratory bird, and all guns used for migratory bird hunting are restricted to 3 shells. Therefore, you're actually only gaining one additional shot with a semi or pump compared to a break double gun.
Tip: 20 gauge shotguns compared to 12 gauges are lighter and have less recoil. If using a 12 gauge, consider a shoulder recoil pad.
More important than anything is ammunition. Proper ammunition adds to a hunter’s probability of a clean hit and reduces the chance of a bird being wounded and dying some days later. Dove should be taken with #8, #7 ½, or #7 shot. Choose ammunition that fires the most pellets at the highest velocity possible. More pellets increase the chance of a clean hit and higher velocity gives hunters a shorter lead.
Tip: Bring an assortment of ammunition. The range at which dove come in will likely change. Larger (#7) shot better retains energy, perfect for shy birds. However, smaller shot (#8) has more pellets and produces a more dense pattern, great for closer birds.
Don't forget about the choke. To keep the shot pattern tight but also effective, start with an improved cylinder and switch to a modified choke for a tighter spread if needed. Full chokes may be necessary during late season hunts when birds seem more timid.
Bonus tip and by far the most important: get out and go. And take someone to teach or learn with you. Dove hunting lends itself well to spending time with family and friends. Just make sure to follow guidelines from the Oklahoma Department of Heath for effective social distancing while hunting during Covid-19.
- Kelly Adams is the information supervisor for the Wildlife Department
Show the World that You're a Dove Hunter with a Vintage Habitat Patch from the Wildlife Department
The Wildlife Department is funded primarily by hunters and anglers through their purchase of hunting and fishing licenses and certain sporting goods. So by simply purchasing your license and going hunting, you're making a conservation impact for wildlife, but also for yourself and future generations of those who will love the outdoors. Show off that fact with a vintage Oklahoma Habitat Donor patch featuring uniquely embroidered wildlife species from throughout the years. We event recently uncovered a stash of amazing patches from 1992 that we know dove hunter will love. While supplies last, get one of these cool pieces of Oklahoma wildlife history for just $5, while making a statement at the same time. Tell the world that you're a dove hunter and conservationist - vintage style.
This journal was originally published August 17, 2020.
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