View Full Version : Dove shooting for tyros....

Dave McC
August 31, 2001, 08:00 AM
Had a couple of E's about how to hunt doves, so here's a few things.

First, unless you're at a pay for play operation, you should have scouted out dove populations and movements a week or two ago. The best hunting is where the doves are, naturally, so check the spots again just before the season opens. Doves are migratory, so accept the fact that it may be here today, gone tomorrow.

Second, you do NOT have to dress like a tree to kill doves, but camo's a good idea. Drab colors that blend into the background will do. Non shiny guns and equipment get you more and closer shots.

A small cooler filled with frozen water bottles is good two ways. We'll be sweating enormously, and the cooler is a great place for those birds. On hot days, it almost seem like the doves start decomposing in the air. A trash bag or Ziplocks wil keep feathers,etc, off our drinks.

Naturally, you've shown good sense and been practicing. Sporting Clays may be the best practice available, but there's a lot to be said for a pasture afternoon with a handtrap or standard trap throwing crossing and overhead shots.Skeet and trap are also valid, tho the type of shots differ. The handling and firing of a shotgun helps us get used to the feel and swing.

Since the weather is warm, we're likely to not have on shooting vests with shoulder padding. Dove shooting will let us know if our fit and form are off. We'll be taking lots of shots(Hopefully) and while we're using lighter loads, we'll be absorbing a fair amount of recoil. A wearable pad like the PAST will help, and not be stiflingly hot.

Shooting glasses and a brimmed hat are mandatory for safety. There's always one d*mfool that takes low shots, and we get sprinkled with shot.It doesn't even sting the skin but we do not want the pellets in our eyes.

A set of ear plugs is a good idea also. We'll be enduring a lot of blast. Muffs are just too darn warm for this type of hunting.

As for guns and loads, there's plenty of choices.

Most of us will go into the fields with a 12 ga repeater and some nice cheap "Dove" loads. Not a bad choice, but trap loads in either 7 1/2 or 8s are great choices. I like 7 1/2s better, but folks watching their shot distances can do fine with 8s.

Any 1 oz or 1 1/8 oz loads will work fine, if they pattern well from your shotgun.

As for chokes, this is a situation where a tubed gun shines. I take tubes from Skeet to Full with me, and adapt to the conditions there and then. What I do NOT do is keep switching them. For a single fixed choke,Modified is a good compromise. Since shots can run from those imitating pass shooting waterfowl to very close/sudden, there's no perfect choice. Do the best you can.

As for what type of shotgun to use, any one with a weight of less than 7 1/2 lbs will work. I like a bit more muzzle heavy feel on a dove gun than a quail gun, but that's me.

Shooting methods that work on doves for me include a swing through for most shots, and a sustained lead for longer ones. Sometimes I just shoot the darn thing without thinking. My average on the last is pretty good.

You'll use a lot of shells on a dove shoot. Take 4 boxes if you need to.Unless you're a veteran dove shooter, I suggest loading just one round at first, and concentrating on taking a dove with that shot. Later, you can stuff the mag or the other bbl.I've seen and done good work with a S/S, you may want to try one just for ease of handling and the challenge of a single, well placed shot.

Finally, unless you've brought a good retriever or kid....

When you hit a dove keep your eye on it. Do not shoot any more until you've recovered the downed bird.Dead doves can blend into the scenery very, very, well.

And do not get upset if you miss a lot of shots. Everyone does.Doves can change course three times in 3 seconds.

Keep working at it.If you're missing on the crossing shots,try to hit in front of the dove.You could be amazed at how often the dove drops.

Oh, yes, bring out all the trash you see, and don't leave any litter, including hulls....

Good luck and good hunting....

September 1, 2001, 12:25 AM
Dave: Outstanding post. Good advise to any and all.

Dave McC
September 1, 2001, 09:57 AM
Thanks,Gopher. I hope the dove vets chip in with their observations. There's lots of newbies to dove, and we'd all be better off helping these folks...

September 1, 2001, 11:12 AM
I would chip in----but I'll be out dove hunting-----the season opens TODAY!!!

September 1, 2001, 08:02 PM
that doves can change directions three times in three seconds. Those Maryland doves must be lazy. ;)

Here in Tennessee they change directions thirty times (well, almost . . . at any rate it seems like it :rolleyes: ) in three seconds. :D

Appeciate your post and particularly the suggestion that you take everything you brought into the field out when you leave. My farmer friends really appreciate a good housekeeping job.

Dave McC
September 2, 2001, 05:41 AM
Good point, Ralph. I just didn't want to scare off the newbies(G)....

As for taking out all trash, it's a given. The only thing I know that will get a property posted faster than littering is leaving gates open.

September 3, 2001, 01:09 PM
We were hunting a refuge area and there were lanes mowed to all the marked shooting spots. The smart veterans took their hand carts (kinda like the ones guys use for sporting clays or Cowboy shoots) to carry the cooler, guns, boxes of shells, decoys, etc. Most were made from "recycled" hand pull golf carts. If you have a retriever, take 1/3 gallon of water per hour of shooting. This is where the cart gets REAL handy. I have a fold up camo chair I got at K-mart for $15. Some use a 5 gallon bucket with a padded lid and make it their chair, cooler, dove holder, ammo can all in one. Only downside is that if you have to walk far the bucket gets heavy but it sure beats carrying everything loose. Try to have a sling on the shotgun for carrying.

Two magnets for doves are open roosting areas (typically dead trees) and water. If you can find a tree by water it's deadly. If you can get under a shade tree it really helps, but make it a low tree. My friend was with me and he drew a spot with real high trees behind him. Closest shots are 20 feet above the trees (doves have to clear them flying. Make sure you have good sunglasses.

September 3, 2001, 05:52 PM
Good post Dave. I was looking for just such a collection of information to pass along to a few friends this morning. However, instead of your post, I found a list of links to dove hunting basics at gameandfish.about.com. Here's the URL for the list of dove articles:


Dave covers most of the basics in his post, but some of you might want to read the articles for supplementary info.

I went on my very first dove hunt here in TN on Saturday. I got ten birds, and my buddy from AL got his limit. I'm going down to AL to hunt with him on Alabama's opening day in two weeks. Can't beat two opening days in two weeks!

Dave McC
September 4, 2001, 06:36 AM
Thanks Guyon, that's a good link with lots of info. Did you use the Walmart Special? 10 birds for the first time is commendable, Kudos...

Redneck, dove shooters carry enough stuff for a safari sometimes. I use a medium sized cooler bag and often breast out the doves as I go. A GI entrenching tool comes in handy to dispose of the remains in a way that doesn't ugly up the area and puts the nutrients back into the field.

Here's a checklist.....


Ammo, usually 2 boxes plus whatever's left in my vest from the last time.



Hat,latest pick is a ball cap that says Md Dept of Public Safety,my old outfit.Ya need a brim.

The usual Leatherman tool, almost always with me anyway.

Folding chair or stool.Current favorite is a little folder from Bridgestone. Has some back support, an important factor to me.


Ziplocks or trash bag.

Ear plugs.


A coupla frozen water bottles.

HArd candy for quick energy and in case my Diabetes acts up.

Cell phone, for emergencies.

Allergy meds, Aspirin and Imodium.

A coupla folded up paper towels, good for a variety of uses.

I think that's it.

September 4, 2001, 07:13 AM

Went on my first Dove hunt Sat, Got my first dove on my third shot, I took my 6 year old son along to help retrive the birds, he enjoyed himself, i enjoyed myself. When the day was over i had 8 birds and used 74 shells(the first bird was easy).And i have been shooting trap on a regular basis but dove's are alot different.

Dave McC
September 4, 2001, 07:46 AM
Doves ARE different,RDF. Trap targets do not change speed, direction, or height. Doves do all that and seemingly teleport themselves unharmed through curtains of lead.

Doves are my reality check. Every time I get to thinking I'm hot stuff with a shotgun, doves remind me I'm mortal....

Glad your son had a good time. My kids have been known to do retriever imitations too. One cautionary note, kids need eye and ear protection just like we do, and a hat is mandated.

If anyone's wondering why I'm not talking about my dove exploits yet, I have my other eye surgery tomorrow.The Doc cautioned me about allergies acting up before the surgery, and I'm being a good little patient. With luck, I'll be returning lead to the earth gleefully in a few weeks....

September 4, 2001, 10:59 AM
Dave: Yes, I used the Wal-Mart 1100 and am happy to report it functioned just fine. Good bird gun all around. The only modification I anticipate is putting on some sling swivels. May let a gun smith do it since I don't have a drill press and am a little wary of drilling into the small little ridge inside the mostly hollow synthetic stock. I would hate to get the hole crooked and mess up the stock.

Started out with improved cylinder but switched to modified as the birds began to fly a little higher. I was using fairly heavy loads (1 1/8 ounce heavy dove loads), and I put 68 shells through the gun. I may toss a few lighter loads into my backpack for my next dove hunt just to see how they function in the gun.

Best of luck with the eye surgery.

Dave McC
September 4, 2001, 12:17 PM
Thanks, Guyon. Congrats on the 1100, it looks like I did some good posting all that.Sure would like to hear other after action reports on these bargain autos.

I've mounted studs, but not on plastic. Brownell's has a jig for getting the thing on straight, but I think I'd pay a pro for this.

BTW, sling studs are nigh standard here. don't have them on the TB(Yet!), but sure do on everything else.

September 4, 2001, 05:49 PM
Yeah Dave, I ought to thank you for that post, as should a number of other people who benefited from the timely heads up. The Wal-Mart price was right, and to be honest, I got some excellent service from the folks at Wally World. They're not all idiots.

I'm quite pleased with the shotgun, and I'm happy that it seems to have loosened up. Oh, I did put a Pachmayr recoil pad on to lengthen the pull. Seems to make the gun set up better to my eye when I mount as well. The non-glare surface and black synthetic stocks make it a good hunting gun, and the gas system really makes shooting heavier loads a pleasure. The few malfunctions I had at first involved loading one shell at a time for skeet. The bolt carrier wasn't fully chambering the shells. I brought the gun home and gave it a second good cleaning and made sure to give the action a good coat of CLP.

In semi-auto mode while I was hunting Saturday, the gun didn't have a hiccup in 68 shots. Problem solved.

September 4, 2001, 07:07 PM
I keep hearing good things about these Wally-World 1100's. Wish I could find them near me.
I went dove hunting Saturday for the first time and where we were, there was not a whole lot flyin. I got 3 but only found 2:( one buddy got 3 and the other got 4 but that was about all. I was using my 870 with a modified choke. I did have a ball though and was happy when I got my first bird:)
I have shot sporting clays and the 5 stand only a handful of times so far and trap I have shot once.

Dave McC
September 5, 2001, 05:33 AM
You're very welcome, Guyon. Glad I helped.

SFS, sounds like a good start. When I dove hunt with friends, we hootnholler, trade jokes and a bit of good natured ribbing, and in general have a great time.Hope you did the same...

September 5, 2001, 05:41 AM
Thats half the fun of hunting:D

September 5, 2001, 07:34 PM
Does anyone use decoys? Saw them at Wally-world but didn't buy any.
Went out Tues. morning, did the best I've ever done at one setting, 10 birds in 2hrs. Even scored one double. I just took up the dove habit last season. This year I got rid of the old Marlin with the fixed full choke and got an 870, using a modified. Found my hit-to-miss ratio has improved considerably.

Dave McC
September 6, 2001, 10:50 AM
Sounds like that 870 fits, SK.

I have some decoys, sometimes they seem to work, sometimes not. I like them at watering spots, but not at roosts.

September 6, 2001, 01:28 PM
I'm retired and often have a chance to hunt alone. I have found that a few decoys often entice the doves within range. Either spread about a half dozen in a clear spot on the ground about 30 yards away or clip then on the top strand of barb wire surrounding the field. Either way often works and gets doves within range where without them, the doves have plenty of other territory to explore. ;)
I keep a sack full in the truck this time of year and feel they earn their keep.

September 8, 2001, 09:28 PM
All right, between you guys yammering on about doves and other winged critters and reading various hunting books about the secret pleasures of wing shooting, I'm going to have to find out what this is about!

I've got a question though. I understand how people hunt fields, either with dogs, or just themselves trying to flush the birds. I noticed a poster above made reference to the staked or marked shooting positions on public land. That's how things are set up near me, and what I'll be doind if I decide to give it a try. How does this work? I assume you go and sit at your marked spot... but then what happens? Do the birds just flutter around the field on their own, and you shoot when they come by? I'm curious how this kind of hunting works.

Dave McC
September 9, 2001, 01:05 PM
Basically, we're waiting to ambush them as they fly past on their own. Sometimes one can scout out good places by observing where the birds cross a field, or where they water up/

Your local library should have something on this under Dewey Decimal System # 799. This will help, but having someone with experience take you out is the best way to learn.