5 Great Tips for Dove Hunting Success


They have been called the Gray Ghosts of September for a reason. There is a certain allure that doves have for wing-shooters. They are challenging to hunt, more specifically, challenging to hit. The season opens when it’s still t-shirt weather so you don’t have to worry about numb hands. And best of all, they are great table fare. Here are five tips to help you have a great time and put some doves on the ground this September.


1. Bring a lot of shells

Doves fly very erratically, constantly changing direction, even more so when fields of hunters are throwing steel shot at them. The limit is 15 birds, and on average you may hit one out of every three shots. Do the math and load up.


2. Scout before the opener

Doves are migratory birds, so the number of birds in your hunting spots may vary depending upon the migration. Get out and see what the birds are doing a few days before the season. Doves are seed-eaters, so look for fresh cut fields of wheat or alfalfa. And they love sunflower seeds. They also like a drink of water when they get up and before they roost. Don’t hunt over water, just know they will be traveling between water and a food source.


3. Wear good camouflage

Doves have excellent eyesight, so blending in with your surrounding is key. You don’t need to be head-to-toe painted green like turkey hunting, but you don’t want to stick out either. Even though the temperature is warm, I actually prefer wearing a cotton, button-up long sleeve shirt. It helps keep you hidden and keeps the bugs off.


4. Be ready to shoot

Like turkey hunting, the trick is to see the bird before he sees you and be ready to make the shot. I usually don’t shoulder my gun and track a bird as I seen him coming across the field, those are the shots I miss. It’s better to keep the gun “soft-shouldered”, close but not fully mounted. Then when the bird is in range, you can still let your shooting instincts take over. On passing birds, swing through the bird from behind and when the bead reaches his beak, shoot.nate_stef_dove2


5. Bring your kids and buddies

Dove hunting, like many other outdoor activities, is better enjoyed in the company of others who share the passion. And when birds aren’t flying, you have someone to joke around with and pass the time. It’s also a fantastic wing-shooting hunt for kids— the weather is warm and you don’t need a ton of gear. Once a kid drops his first dove, more often than not, you’ll have a hunting buddy for life.


Dove Hunting Season in Illinois opens statewide on September 1, 2013. If you don’t have private land to hunt, there are plenty of public hunting areas that allow dove hunting. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources does a fantastic job of providing habitat for dove, specifically sunflower fields. A couple excellent public hunt areas include Kankakee State Park and Des Plaines Conservation Area. These places are close and usually have good success rates. Matthiessen State Park in Utica also offers public dove hunting. The first five days of the season are by permit only. Hunters needed to have applied online prior to the season to draw a free permit for a designated site. But starting September sixth, the rules change to “standby”, where it’s a first come-first served basis until the hunter quota is met for each field. Then hunters can “stand by” and wait for an opening when other hunters check out.


Hours are from sunrise until sunset statewide, but public hunt areas typically have their own site-specific regulations, with most being from Noon until sunset. Also, most public hunt areas allow non-toxic shot only, no lead. There are a variety of good loads on the market available in steel and tungsten shot. . Doves are small and don’t require a lot of energy to put down, so a good shot size for dove is seven and a half or eight shot. Those loads pack the most pellets, giving hunters a better chance to knock birds down.

For specific regulations and listings of public hunt areas, visit the DNR website at  http://dnr.state.il.us.

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