When it comes to dove hunting gear, it’s really not rocket science. Dove hunting can be as simple or complex as you want it to be (I’m usually leaning towards the latter). You can lay along a treeline, fenceline, or even a ditch. You name it, if there are doves flying over it can work.
Then there’s the more complex side of dove hunting. It involves dove decoys, blinds or backrests, mojo doves, etc. While it’s not entirely necessary to have a good dove hunt, it can certainly help.
So with that being said, I spend a lot of my time hunting doves in the fall. I kind of feel like I have to, they taunt me at my house all summer (we have a lot of trees). They crap all over my house and they’re delicious, that’s reason enough for me. And with that, here’s what I consider tips and essential dove hunting gear you need to succeed.
Dove Hunting Tips
Let’s start with the basic dove hunting tips first. After all, you can have all the dove hunting gear in the world but if you don’t know what you’re doing…it’ll probably fail. Let me explain.
Best Time to Dove Hunt
You first need to understand where doves hang out and spend their time. They roost in trees at night and fly out to feed in the morning. They will often stop for water along the way. And after feeding, they will head to gravel to help digestion. So that right there are 4 scenarios where you can hunt doves.
I prefer hunting doves in the morning. That is when they’re the most predictable. If your scenario plays out right, you’ll get your doves early and beat the heat. But that doesn’t mean the evenings can’t be good as well. They’ll typically have the same patterns as the morning, so when you see them using an area they’ll probably be there that evening.
The midday is the dead time. They’ll roost again, often in thick trees to get out of the wind. So mornings or evenings are the best time to dove hunt.
What Do Doves Eat
Doves prefer to eat small grains I’ve found in my neck of the prairie. They’re a small bird and require a small meal to be able to, of course, swallow. Depending on the crops in your area, it may vary. But a prime example would be canola. That’s dove crack if you ask me. If you have the 4 elements I named earlier that include cut canola, it’s going to be a good hunt.
Other Dove Hunting Tips
Like goose hunting, some windshield time down the back roads is always going to help. I like to start scouting for about a week before dove hunting season. I prefer to hunt them in the fields or along field edges, so I’m looking for that canola (in my area). I tend to stick to areas with a lot of trees and access to water.
Another tip when scouting is just flat out seeing doves. There are 3 scenarios I’m looking for visually when scouting for doves.
- Power Lines – No, I don’t mean shooting doves on the wire. Not only is it illegal, but it’s also just plain stupid. But those things are dove magnets. Once you have a couple, it’s like they just keep coming. So I keep an eye out for “dove lines” down the wires. If it’s above a cut small grain field, it’s probably loaded in and around it.
- Water Holes – Water holes can be dynamite to hunt for doves, and the best part is you don’t need a lot of dove hunting gear to do it. It’s an easy hide and it requires no decoys (unless you want to). If you have water in an otherwise dry area…even better.
- Flight Lines – Doves can be vulnerable in that they tend to take the same travel routes each day. A prime example can be a break in a tree row or anything that can bottleneck their flight path. These are fantastic setup points for pass shooting.
One last tip is to use those old trusty waterfowl blinds in the field. Doves just aren’t as keen to them as other game birds, so you can get away with a lot in them (and still have comfort).
Best Dove Load
I don’t claim to be a ballistics expert, but you don’t need an expensive dove load to shoot doves. I use the cheap stuff, 7 ½ loads for my over/under Beretta O/U 12-gauge shotgun. Nothing crazy, it works and patterns well for me.
You may get up to 8’s or even a 6 for a 2nd/3rd shot, but in reality, we’re talking a small bird here. One BB in the jugular and it’s done.
Best Dove Hunting Gear
The best dove hunting gear doesn’t have to be expensive. You don’t need specialized upland clothing, special dove loads, or fancy decoys. You can carry in and out, light. That’s the key to hunting in the heat, in my opinion, is to enjoy it and not kick your butt in the process.
I will explain below what you really need, and what you can probably go without. What dove hunting gear you need is entirely up to you.
Best Upland Clothing
The best upland clothing is quite simple in my opinion. The shirt, of course, camouflage, needs to be able to breathe in the heat. While cool mornings happen, we’re not talking extremes here. But in the afternoons during dove hunting season, it can get hot. So I like a fishing shirt like material for this.
The best upland pants are ANYTHING that doesn’t pick up burrs when going through the weeds and tall grass. Why they make so many pairs on the market that are cotton-like material is beyond me, don’t buy it. Stay with upland pants, like Carhardts, that have a hard outer shell. You’ll be glad you did.
I’m not a huge dove decoy guy. To be honest, I rarely have a scenario where it matters. Sure it’s cool to set up a few dozen along a fenceline, and it can help, but more often than not they stay in the truck.
When I do buy dove decoys, I typically use full-body style dove decoys. Not only are they more realistic, but when we’re talking small volume, you may as well go with the best. I do own and have used silhouette style dove decoys, but they have a glare to them and just don’t stick out like the full bodies.
Another tip is to find a giant brand and prop it up. It’s natural, and a dozen decoys on it can help attract doves.
The fact that mojo doves do, in fact, work is becoming widely known. Yes, as long as you have a flight of doves, you can pull them down into you with mojo doves. Now keep in mind, you don’t need to go crazy like robo ducks. We use 1-3 mojo doves and I think 3 is enough.
They’re relatively cheap and easy to transport. I would rather have 2 mojo doves than have 100 dove decoys. That’s just me.
Remember the old days of carrying around maps when you go hunting? While I will admit, I still have my state map (a BIG one) in my truck, I rarely use it anymore. When I have to know who owns the land I’d like to hunt, I reach for my phone and use the On X Maps app.
If you’ve never used it, it’s pretty darn slick. It shows satellite imagery with landowner grids overlapping the land. Of course, it does a lot more than that, but that’s the basics of the product and why you need it.
I feel like at this point, everyone should already know about ON X Maps, but if not, check them out.
Best Shotgun for Dove Hunting
You don’t need some high-end shotgun to hunt doves effectively. In fact, I recommend going with the smallest shotgun you can get by with. When I dove hunt, I’m carrying my gun often a long way. And you need to swing, fast, to keep up with the bird.
I use a Beretta 686 O/U 12-gauge, and I feel like it’s overkill. A 20-gauge is perfect for hunting doves if you have one that fits (which I don’t – my 20 gauges are for my kids).
You don’t need a long barrel either, or some custom choke. You just need to be able to swing…
I love eating doves. It’s actually one of my favorite game birds to eat. The only problem, is you need to harvest a lot of doves to make it a meal. The good thing is in my neck of the woods, doves are everywhere so we don’t normally have that problem.
Here are a few dove recipes that are simple, and great for the table.
Crock Pot Dove Recipe
This one is so simple, it doesn’t need an ingredient list…
Simple take cleaned dove breasts in a crockpot, and cover with cream of mushroom soup. Depending on how many breasts you have, you’ll probably want 2 cans of soup.
I also sometimes add onion and mushrooms to this, to make it heartier.
I like to run mine on low for about 2-3 hours. It doesn’t take long to cook the dove, but I like to do it slowly. This is one of my favorite dove recipes for on the go.
This is another one of those easy recipes. The only question is do you prefer your dove dry or with a marinade? And what vegetables do you like on kabobs?
If you’re going to use a marinade, I would give it an hour or two. If you’re going to dry season, you’re ready to go!
My preferred seasoning is a hint of garlic powder, salt & pepper. Yup, that simple. I like the taste of dove so I don’t want to spoil it by overseasoning it. I’m not a marinade guy for doves, so this is how I prepare.
You’ll want a HOT grill, and cut big pieces of vegetables. That simple!
Dove Hunting Gear Overview
As I stated in the beginning, you don’t need a ton of dove hunting gear to enjoy the sport. It requires patience, proper concealment, and being in the right spot at the right time. Compared to most hunting, dove hunting is quite inexpensive. It’s a great way to introduce someone into the sport of hunting.
See you in the field.
Cover Photo Credit: Michael Lamp