Let’s Start With Doves

August 30, 2017 Aaron Hershberger

To be a dove hunter you need to be creative.  Most of us have two or three good excuses at the ready for when we miss a relatively easy shot.  Dove hunters on the other hand, should have at least a solid half-dozen new ones anytime they head to the field.  “I’m still seeing dark spots since forgetting my glasses during the eclipse.” For example.

However, if you are looking to add some local, wild-protein to your diet while spending quality time outdoors with your buds then you need to be hunting doves.  September 1, it all starts and there is no better place to start your hunting season or career than in a dove field.  And for those just getting started the best advice is – Keep it Simple.

Best Shotgun for Doves.  It’s the shotgun you already own and are the most familiar with.  12 or 20 gauge, pump or auto, over-under or side-by-side – it really doesn’t matter.  If you can swap out chokes I would suggest nothing tighter than Improved Cylinder.  Remember the shotgun plug, if your scattergun can hold more than three shells without it.

Best Loads for Shotguns.  Pair your shotgun with a decent target load in #7½ lead or #7 steel and you have what you need.  I prefer extra shot to extra speed, but this can be personal preference.  Just be sure to have enough.  It can be shocking how fast you will use them up on a good hunt.  The national average is 6-7 shots fired per dove harvested.

What you need.  For Nebraska residents 16 years and older you will need your (small game) Hunt Permit, Habitat Stamp and don’t forget a HIP number.  HIP stands for Harvest Information Program.  It’s free and simple to get this online at www.OutdoorNebraska.gov/HIP.  Just be sure to write the number down on your permit.

Never forget.  Along with a bunch of shotgun shells, I always make sure I have plenty to drink, some snacks, a stool or bucket to sit on and a way to carry out my doves and empty shells.  Once this is all packed I try my best to find a way to carry more shotgun shells.  Then more snacks.

Best place to hunt.    Doves survive on small weed seeds and grain.  And they prefer finding it on bare ground or in very low cover, under or around the plants that are providing it.  With little legs they just don’t do well moving around in thicker cover.  Grazed pastures, silage-cut fields and harvested wheat fields can be ideal.  Water can be great spots, too, if they have a good sandy or rocky shoreline for the birds to use.  Moving water doesn’t work, but large mud puddles can be all you need.

Grills are for Doves.   Good eats start in the field.  Cooling is important for your harvested doves.  Keep them away from direct sunlight and out of bags or pockets while hunting.  The sooner you start cleaning them the better, too.  Nearly all the meat will be in the breast.  Skinning and removal of the breast is quick and easy.  Then it’s into a marinade or directly onto the grill.

Dove poppers.  Jalapeños, cream cheese, doves and a bit of bacon wrapped around it all, is simply amazing.  Best cooked over med-high heat on the grill until almost all the red is gone in the middle of the meat.  Dove poppers do not last long.  Therefore you will need more shells – because you will want to get more doves.

#1 Dove Myth.  There are no doves around to hunt after opening day or weekend.  Balderdash!  Just keep your eyes open for the perfect location that is already attracting doves.  The last several years my best doves hunts took place 2-3 weeks into the season.  There are doves around some places all season and even all winter.  However, many of us are just too easily distracted by all the other hunting seasons going by that time.


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