John's Journal...

Day 2: Dove Hunting – Not Dove Shooting

Editor’s Note: Dove season arrives soon all across the United States. As a sport, dove shooting is as traditional as a southern barbecue. But something new has been added: calling and decoying the gray speedsters.

Click for Larger ViewAfter opening day of dove season, there are several questions that have to be answered for the sportsman to successfully hunt doves.

  • Where do the doves roost?
  • Where and when do the doves feed?
  • Where and when do the doves gravel?
  • Where to the doves water?

Click for Larger ViewThe easiest and quickest way to gain the answers to these questions is to ride the roads and watch the doves along the sides of the roads. If you can determine where birds are flying to and from, then you can begin to answer these questions. Another even-quicker way to learn about the doves on the land you plan to hunt is to talk to the landowner. Usually a landowner will be able to tell you where and at about what time he sees doves. From this information, you can work out a hunt plan.

To take the most doves, you must position yourself along the routes the doves fly to food, water, gravel and roost. Although this tactic seems simple and uncomplicated, since often just taking a position along the doves’ normal flight pattern will provide some good shooting, many times the doves won’t come in close-enough to allow the shooter close-range targets. And often there will be doves loafing around that aren’t going to food, water, gravel or the roost that the hunter wants to pull in to gun range. This time is where dove decoys can be effective.

Dove Decoying:

Click for Larger ViewOnce I found a pond on a soybean farm where doves were coming in to water late in the afternoon. The farm had had several dove shoots on it during the first 3 weeks of dove season. Although there were still plenty of doves to be taken, the birds were scattered and very wary. The water provided the best place to concentrate the gray ghosts. But because the pond was rather large, and the birds came from many directions, only a few of the doves came past the tree where I was hiding, which was my problem. There were plenty of doves to shoot, and the birds were concentrated around the water, but most of the time I couldn’t get them in close enough for a shot. A friend of mine suggested that I buy some dove decoys to reel the doves in toward me. I assumed that decoying doves would be just like decoying ducks. Therefore I went to my local sporting-goods store and found that I could purchase dove decoys inexpensively.

Click for Larger ViewWith my dozen dove decoys, I realized I had the same problem that waterfowl hunters do – how to get the decoys into the field and not have so much stuff that I couldn’t hunt. Once again I consulted my sporting-goods dealer who suggested I wear a small waterfowling decoy backpack for the decoys and carry a Quake Industries’ 6-pound Stag All-Terrain Seat or a 5-pound Bull Seat (, to sit on in the field. Then I could put the decoys into the pack, and once I arrived at my stand, I could unpack the decoys and the seat, place the decoys and shoot birds going in to and coming away from the pond. The decoys along with the knowledge that the doves were coming-in to the water would help me set-up a perfect ambush for those smart doves that had been dodging me for the past 2 weeks.

Heading for the pond, I placed the dove decoys out on the limbs of the tree where I was sitting. I watched as the elusive doves came in to the pond, spotted my decoys and then banked in to where I was hiding for some socializing before they took a drink of water. The decoys worked like a charm to lure the socially-minded mourning doves to within gun range. But there were still a few birds that even the decoys couldn’t pull in to where I was. My hunt plan wasn’t completed yet, since I had not totally mastered the sport of dove hunting.

How to Hunt Deer Like a ProTo learn more about John E. Phillips’ beautifully-photographed books, many complete with how-to videos, go to, type in “Hunt Deer Like a Pro,” and when that comes up, click on the John E. Phillips’ author’s page to see a list of about 20 of his outdoor e-Books available on Kindle.

Tomorrow: Dove Calling

Check back each day this week for more about "Dove Hunting Vs. Dove Shooting"

Day 1: Hunting the Beginning of Dove Season
Day 2: Dove Hunting – Not Dove Shooting
Day 3: Dove Calling
Day 4: The Flight Patterns of Doves and Where to Make Decoy Spreads
Day 5: Other Areas for Calling and Decoying Doves

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Entry 680, Day 2