It’s always impossible to know exactly how a first hunt is going to play out, but my first dove hunt experience was far from how we had anticipated things going when we started that morning.
My friend from work and I found ourselves deep on state game lands in a secluded field, and having one of the best wing shooting days of our lives. Neither of us had ever hunted doves before and wanted to give it a shot.
The day that started sunny and perfect turned when the edge of a tropical storm moved in. Flocks of doves kept coming past so we stayed despite the downpour and we ended up having the time of our lives.
We ended our hunt in the middle of a downpour and soaked standing just inside a tree line. It also didn’t help that I was two hours late from meeting up with my wife and I was running out of shells. Don’t worry, this isn’t usually how dove hunting goes; but it can be that fun if you’ll hunt through a rainstorm.
The decision to hunt mourning doves for most in our area is an easy one. If you grew up hunting them with friends and family you know how enjoyable the challenge is. An easy walk in warm weather to sit for a few hours and pass shoots at a large resource of birds that make a great meal.
This hunt checks a lot of boxes for hunters that haven’t had the chance to chase much game over the summer months. If you have never hunted doves before here, you can usually be easily persuaded into giving it a try for those reasons.
You don’t need a lot of gear to get started. More than likely, you already have everything you need to hunt doves. A shotgun with a choke tube that’s a modified or improved-cylinder, warm weather camo clothes, boots, and a bucket or small travel chair to sit on gets you in the field. A quick stop into Kinsey’s Outdoors to grab a box (or a few) of 7.5-8 shotgun shells and you’re on your way.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission actually creates and manages some areas specifically for doves. These areas can be found on their interactive map. In our area, almost any state game lands with some open grain fields is a great place to start.
By this point, these crops may have been cut which is even better as the doves can mill around the grain on the ground. If you can hunt by a body of water that helps your chances as doves usually tend to start and end their day at the water.
Dove hunting is one of those activities that local farmers tend to have no problem with throughout the year. If you know of such a farmer or see a field that looks like it could be good, don’t be afraid to knock on a door or two and ask to hunt one or two evenings. You have nothing to lose and only a hunting spot to gain.
As you find you enjoy this early season hunt, stepping up your involvement doesn’t cost a lot of time or money. When I started, I got 10 decoys for around $20 from Kinsey’s Outdoors which can always help to sell a set up to a flock passing by.
You’ll need a migratory game bird license ($3.90) if you don’t already have one. You can pick it up at the counter when you pay for your items.
Dove hunting can be one of the most enjoyable hunts of the year. Try not to get too frustrated if you end up missing shots. Try leading a little more than you may think you need to, and bring a few more shells than you may be willing to confess to.