In the August/September 2010 issue of NEBRASKAland, I wrote a piece entitled Jump-Shooting Dove and included the following tips:
In most locales, including across Nebraska, many people limit dove hunting to opening day. It’s a sit-on-the-cooler affair at the edge of a cut
sunflower field or near the shore of a pond. However, many more birds can be taken after the opening weekend by jump-shooting. Here’s how:
1) The field – Locate a cut wheat, corn, sunflower, or even bean field by asking permission. It’s must easier after the opening weekend to gain permission because most dove hunters have moved on by this point.
2) The crop rows – When working fields, walk across the rows versus down them. Dove see extremely well, and will spot you much easier if you are moving with the rows.
3) The sun – Always try to walk with the sun on either your left or right side. Behind you, it casts a long shadow in the direction of birds. In front of you the glimmer from your gun’s metal may give you away.
4) The gun – Only load two in the gun. Your third shot is a waste on these hunts, and is usually fired in frustration at a bird at long range.
5) The first bird – Don’t shoot the first bird you see. Dove are known for flying in groups, and rarely will a bird be feeding by itself. If you let the first one flush, there will probably be more on the ground in that same area that will flush and offer you a better shot.
6) The recovery – Shoot one dove and pick it up. Finding one downed dove in a field is often difficult, much less trying to find more than one.
7) The clothes – Dove see well, so wearing camouflage will help in your attempts to get close to birds.
Those were some of my thoughts regarding dove hunting, but not all. Here are a few more thoughts regarding this very fun time of the year:
1) Wear ear and eye protection, especially when hunting with others.
2) Spend a few minutes at the beginning of a hunt trying to find out where birds are entering a field. Then spend a few more minutes trying to put yourself on that flight line if possible.
3) Start door-knocking on cut wheat fields right now. Birds will stay around these spots for several more weeks than they will others. Then the jump-shooting tips above will come in very handy.
4) Find out what loads work best for you. I shoot 1 1/8 ounce 8’s shooting an improved cylinder choke. That’s what I use. The shells are relatively cheep (around $20 for four boxes) and that extra 1/8 ounce really helps. At least I think it does, and sometimes a little confidence is all you need to put you over the edge.
5) Until the season starts, watch birds fly. I don’t shoot clays right before the season starts because the clays fly very predictable compared to dove, and I don’t want to battle newly formed bad habits right before the season. Instead, I watch a lot of birds fly while I’m out and it seems to help me deal with their speed and maneuverability once I’m in the field.
Good luck and let me know how you’re shooting.