Some of our hunting trips are intense. You get up two hours before daylight, slam down a fast breakfast and hike up a mountain so you can be in your secret spot before the elk start moving. You hike/hunt hard all day and get back to camp well after dark so tired you barely feel like cooking dinner.
Two hours after falling asleep you wake up freezing. The temp is down around 8 degrees. You sleep fitfully until your alarm goes off. You gingerly step out of your sleeping bag and pull on your frozen pair of blue jeans. The legs are like trying to slip on irrigation pipes. The snow slightly melted when you took them off and then froze hard overnight.
By the third morning you are so sore you can’t hardly roll out of bed. Ahh, this elk hunting is the life! No doubt, elk hunting can be tough. Much less when it’s snowing so hard that the tent keeps collapsing overnight and you have to push it up to make the snow slide off.
Compared to elk hunting, dove hunting is heavenly. The weather is nice and warm. You don’t have to be hiking up to the top of a ridge before the sun has even woken up. Just be at a water hole a little bit after daylight, hunt the feeding fields during the day and hit the water holes again in the evening.
You don’t want to camo up too much, sure don’t wear scent cover, and you can set on a stool behind a tree, fenceline or brush.
Details depend on where you hunt, but here are some general rules to make you successful.
• Generally doves like to fly down fencelines/treelines.
• They like to hit water holes early/late. They don’t like to water at fast moving streams. They like ponds, sloughs etc.
• Hunt feed sources. Grain fields (milo is the best) or sunflowers.
• They like to sit in dead trees and on power lines.
• Eurasian doves like to congregate around barns and corrals. A couple of years ago three of us shot nearly 100 in two hours around an old barn/corral.
• Nowadays we have decoys and mojo decoys that help. Sound people use calls.
Doves can be hard to hit. They’re cruising along a lot faster than they appear. The best description I have ever heard of their flight pattern is how an old outdoor writer, Cotton Ward, described them 20-something years ago. He said when they come “dipsy doodling in” that they are hard to hit.
The gear you’ll need is pretty simple. A lot of people use a padded top five-gallon bucket. You can carry your shells, water and doves home in the bucket and sit on it while hunting. Get one with a swivel top. You’ll also want a shell vest. When they’re coming in hot and heavy, you’ll want fast access to your shells. And definitely a cap to cover your face and shield you from the sun.
Most people use a 20-gauge or 12-gauge and a modified choke. On good days you’ll have a lot of shooting so it’s smart to wear ear protection. A lot of hunters don’t like hard ear muffs because when you throw up your shotgun they bump it out of line. Check out the Axil Sport EAR X-Pro series. They fit in your ear like a hearing aid.
Since you’ll be doing a lot of shooting most people use low base size 7½ or 8 shot. Take four to six boxes because you don’t want to be having an exceptional hunting day and run out of shells. Curse of all curses.
I was headed out hunting yesterday. My neighbor said the doves had cleared out two weeks before when the weather cooled down. Doves up north do that. Really the dove season up north should open Aug. 15.
Sure enough, I didn’t see one mourning dove and only two Eurasians. I always get doves in this spot. I guess they did migrate early this year. So, I changed to a pigeon hunting mode. I’d brought my Umarex .25 caliber Gauntlet for that purpose.
The first 30 to 45 minutes was awesome. I hit close to 30. I got one Eurasian and should have had two but I took too long to crank down on him. You can use an airgun on pigeons and Eurasians but not on mourning doves since they’re a migratory bird.
Well, it’d been a great day. I cleaned the birds (I saved the young pigeons), sliced the breast into three to four slices and marinated them for a few hours. Then I cut a slice of peppered bacon in half and laid on a slice of breast, onion and jalapeno and wrapped them up and pinned together with a toothpick.
I’d found one last forequarter off of an axis deer I’d shot last year so I fired up the pellet smoker and smoked the poppers, deer shoulders and chicken breast. Katy, Kolby, Kolby’s boyfriend and I feasted like kings and queens. It was a great day in the Claycomb house.