Annually September 1 marks the first official wing-shooting season of the fall. It is celebrated by many of us firing 3-shot salutes to the little gray-winged speedsters we call doves – and missing. Mourning doves are the
most hunted gamebird in the U.S., with more shotgun shells being shot at them than any other critter. The reasons for this are simple: doves are widespread across this nation, as well as Nebraska; they can be very tricky to hit; and they are darn tasty on the grill.
The first step in the process is to find the doves. Sounds simple enough right? And it is. You can plop your bucket down just about anywhere in Nebraska and, if you sit for the better part of the day, a dove or two will eventually fly past. But you are missing out on the true excitement of chasing doves if this is your method. For the full effect you need to find birds and I mean lots of them. Several dozens – if you cannot find more.
Great places to look include sunflower, wheat and silage-cut corn fields where birds are attracted to the small seeds. Weedy patches in pastures can work, too. Areas around water are also popular with both dove and dove hunter and may provide some of the better opportunities this year. Just remember these are small birds that require very shallow
puddles and plenty of bare shoreline to utilize as a watering location.
Once you have access to a concentration of doves your next step is to figure out the best spot to sit. Even in a really good field with lots of activity, there will be spots better than others. Just watching the birds flying around will often
give you the best ideas in figuring out their preferred flight routes. However, good places to seek out are hi-points that provide some natural hiding possibilities. A cedar tree or bush, a pile of branches or even just some tall plants or weeds can all make great places. I have had some memorable hunts just standing amongst the sunflower plants or in a weed-patch; however, my personal favorite is locating near a still-standing dead tree. The bare branches can provide a natural magnet to doves.
To help add a little extra encouragement for doves to swing by a little closer add some decoys. In my opinion visibility is the biggest factor when using these gray fakes. Place them off the ground in very conspicuous places – on some leafless tree branches or along the top wire of a fence. Adding motion will make them even more noticeable – which may include the use of a flapping or wing-spinning decoy.
If everything comes together you will find the answer to why anyone would spend the time and effort chasing such a small bird that is so easily missed – the grilled dove popper. Simply take one filleted dove breast, wrap around a small slice of jalepeno pepper that is accompanied by a bit of cream cheese. Top with a small piece of bacon and pin together with toothpick. Finish on the grill with medium-high heat. You will soon forget about the number of shells it took to get that tasty bird – ooh, boy!