Dove hunting is the sign of the beginning. The beginning of hunting season. The beginning of fall. Beginning of an obsession.
Usually, the first season to open, dove hunting is an American tradition. Finding a place to hunt, however, can be difficult. Public fields are crowded and usually face high pressure. Private fields and clubs are fantastic—you will get your birds, but who wants to shell out cash for every hunt?
Come to think of it… what do those private clubs have that you can’t?
Doves are fairly simple creatures. They need five basic things: food, water, grit, a place to rest, and other doves. If you could have an acre of land with even two or three of these things you’d definitely see birds. Enough for bacon wrapped dove breast appetizers at your next family get-together.
As with anything on the internet, check your local regulations before beginning your excursion.
There is this common misconception that baiting laws make preparing your land for hunting complicated. This is false. Just follow Normal Agriculture— plant your crops according to the season. Use crops that are common. Basically, think like a farmer—not a hunter.
If you are looking to hunt more than just doves, double check and make sure you are not violating restrictions for other species. For instance, Waterfowl you can’t manipulate crops (cut, harvest, or bale) to draw birds in—with doves you can.
So what do you need to have your perfect dove field?
Finding your Plot
You need to find an acre or more of good farm land. It needs to be open with maybe one or two trees per acre. Doves like to see where they are landing before coming in. Here’s a good example Wildcat Tract 11E
Hunting Tip #1 – Stay Still: All the camouflage in the world won’t help you if you won’t sit still. You could be wearing a hot pink jump-suit, but if you don’t move until you absolutely have to—you will out-hunt the guy wearing a full gillie-suit who won’t stop fidgeting.
If you are lucky enough to have two good plots… develop both of them! Hunt one in the morning and one in the evening. Doves can become very sensitive to pressure—switching it up gives the birds a chance to rest, and leads to better dove hunting for you.
Ahh water… It gives life. Doves, however, can be a little picky—make sure they have a gentle and open approach to the water like a sandy driveway. Basically, you want to be able to take a person on a walker to the water’s edge. This can be accomplished on a creek or a pond by pouring and smoothing some fine gravel down to the water’s edge.
If you don’t have any open water on your land, don’t sweat. As long as you have some water nearby—even on a neighbor’s property—birds will still come to you.
You’ve got options when it comes to what kind of crops you want in your field
Statistically, more doves are taken over corn than any other crop. This has little to do with whether or not doves like corn—it has more to do with the fact that most of dove land has corn. Corn can be an excellent crop for hunting, but you should consider other options as well. Considering the amount of work it takes to get a good enough corn field to hunt over.
Traditionally, sunflowers are the crop most hunters sow in their dove fields. Sunflowers provide an excellent food source for the birds and are nice to look at as well.
Sorghum can provide food and shelter for a whole host of game including Whitetail Deer, Feral Pigs, and Mourning Doves. It is worth mentioning that some species of Sorghum are considered invasive and can be dangerous to livestock. However, the type they have at your local shop is going to be fine.
Millet is another well known dove crop—and if you have fallen behind this year there is no quicker crop to get you in the game. Brown-top Millet matures within 60 days.
Diversity when it comes to crops is excellent. If you have a big enough section or multiple fields, try a combination of these crops and find what works. You might see that one day the birds want sorghum but the next it’s all about the sunflowers.
And remember to cut your crops within the Agriculture guidelines to draw more birds in.
Hunting Tip #2 – Scout: A few days before the season opens go sit in the field and observe. Do nothing but watch and take notes of where the birds fly in at, do they have a favorite roost, and which blinds have the best angles?
Roosts, Grit, and Blinds
Would you eat at a diner that had no chairs? Neither would a dove. Ok, that’s not entirely true you might still shoot some birds if you don’t have a roost, but there is no reason you can’t have one even if it’s not natural. Just build a little structure in your field for some birds to sit on.
Bonus points if you have decoys on the ground and on the roost. It will signal to the birds that this is a safe place to land.
Doves need grit, and not the kind John Wayne had. Just some sand or fine gravel to help grind up the seeds they have eaten in their gullet. Put it either at the water bank to make their entrance easier, or on your access road. The good news is that gravel has a lot of good uses beyond just drawing in doves—get creative.
Blinds—ok, you need somewhere to shoot from. Remember breaking up your outline is far more important than having a good shooting position. You can set up artificial shooting positions or hide behind some bales. Try setting up two positions with good cover on the points of the compass.
Now you’re all set. You might of set out with the intention of dove hunting, but all of the above tips can draw in game for the rest of the hunting season. Don’t waste it and Good hunting