Preparing for the Pennsylvania Mourning Dove Season

Pennsylvania Dove Hunting Tips, Tricks, and Gear

September 1st marks the beginning of dove season in Pennsylvania. Doves are an abundant resource to the state and to the continent.  In fact, the dove’s high population density makes it one of the most hunted bird species in North America. On a state level, Pennsylvania offers tremendous dove hunting opportunities.  Whether hunting public or private land, in the eastern part of the state or in the west, there are plenty of opportunities for hunters to enjoy the sport. If you’re a curious first timer hunting mourning doves in Pennsylvania you can put a smile on your face and leave you asking why you haven’t been doing this longer. It’s exciting, challenging, and even enjoyably confusing when the flocks come zipping past you. To many, the opening of dove season serves as the start for a new fall and another year’s worth of hunting.

Whether you are a beginner or an avid dove hunter here are some of the basics of hunting doves in Pennsylvania including regulations, hunting location, tips, and gear.

Pennsylvania Dove Hunting Regulations

Of course, with any hunting season it’s important to understand the regulations.   The dove season regulations include the following:

  • The season runs from Sept. 1 to Nov. 24. It then reopens on Dec. 18th and runs until Jan. 5th.  
  • It is required that all hunters over the age of 12 possess a Pennsylvania Migratory Game Bird License.   
  • Shooting hours start a ½ hour before sunrise and are open until sunset.   
  • The daily limit is 15 while the possession limit is 45. 
  • Electronic dove calls are allowed 
  • Orange is not required for dove season  
  • Party hunting is allowed as long as it’s done from a stationary position (such as a blind)

More on PA Dove Regulations.

Pennsylvania Hunting Opportunities

Finding a good dove spot isn’t as hard as it may seem. If you research dove hunting in Pennsylvania you will quickly find out that there are two main factors to consider:

  • Habitat  
  • Whether or not you need to use public land 

Habitat

From the Southwest corner to the Eastern part of the state there is always somewhere people can go to find birds to hunt. However, not all parts of the state have equal abundance of doves. Habitat is the biggest thing to consider when looking for doves.

Doves prefer agriculture.  In fact, the majority of their diet is comprised of seeds and crops.  This means they congregate near fieldswhere their primary food source can be found.   The field that you’re looking for should have some kind of grain field (corn or sunflowers work well) and be close to some water. A dove’s schedule is debated by hunters but they all agree being close to water results in a better hunt.

Knowing that dove hunting opportunities typically exist along agriculture property, you can determine some of the better areas to hunt in the state of Pennsylvania. 

 

Courtesy of USGS

By looking at the map of the state above, it’s clear which areas hold the highest density of birds. These areas have greater amounts of open range habitat.  For example, the southeastern region of the state is known for a high dove population, which also shows the least amount of wooded vegetation.  The north central region is known to provide the least amount of opportunities, where dense woodland dominants the landscape.

Along these agricultural fields, open habitat, and water sources, look for open areas bordered by trees and/or powerlines. If you find a field with a water source, some open ground and field, find some cover and setup for a great hunt. Finding a tree line, round bale, fence row, drainage ditch, or hedge row that offers cover is essential to find once great habitat is found.

PA Public Land Dove Hunting Opportunities

For the public land hunter, Pennsylvania provides plenty of opportunities across the state. There are state lands, federal lands, and even private land that is available through the hunt access program.

Such a variety of land gives hunters thousands of acres to work with during dove season.

Of course, the key to finding success on these lands is to spend time analyzing maps and scouting out different areas.  For starters, look for public land bordering or near open land and agriculture. Then spend some time checking the type of crop and bird activity.

One of the best resources when planning is the Pennsylvania Game Commission, where they provide a detailed map of available public land for each region of the state.

Dove Hunting Gear Essentials

Another important part of any hunt is having the right gear.  Dove hunting is no different.  It requires the basic essentials of any migratory bird adventure.  This includes a reliable gun, shells, clothing, and a field dressing knife. However, whether you are new to the sport and in need of supplies, or simply want to upgrade your equipment, we have compiled a list of our favorite dove hunting accessories below.

Shotguns

Sometimes the best shotgun is the one you already own. However, if you are looking to purchase your first one or simply upgrade, anything from a 12 gauge to a .28 gauge will do. However, being the small size of the bird, we recommend a 20 gauge or .28 gauge if possible.  

These guns are compact, lightweight, and work great when moving through brush or walking long distances.  One particular model we can think of is the 20 gauge semi-automatic Ultralight from Benelli.  It’s one of the lightest and most compact guns on the market, making it not only a perfect option for dove hunting, but for any upland bird hunting situationTraditionally an improved-cylinder or modified choke will work best for doves. Trying to hit a moving dove can be like to trying to hit a fastball with feathers so try using an open choke and lead the bird more than you think is necessary.

Recommended20 gauge Benelli Ultralight Semi-Automatic Shotugun 24” 

Shotgun Shells

Of course finding the right shell is determined by the gauge of your shotgun. However, when looking for the right shell we recommend or 9 shot due to the dove’s small body size. Browning makes a great 2 ¾ inch 8 shot that works perfect for both dove hunting and shooting sporting claysIf you’re attempting to go on your first dove hunt be sure to bring an extra box or two, getting to your limit might take a lot more shells than what you think.

Recommended: Remmington 12 or 20 gauge 8 shot

Breathable Dove Hunting Vest

September and October still leave plenty of time for hot and humid days.  That’s why we recommend a vest that’s lightweight and comfortable.  One such vest option is the Browning Men’s Upland Dove Vest.  It’s both breathable and practical, leaving plenty of room to store hunting essentials.

 Recommended: Browning Men’s Upland Dove Vest 

Dove Decoys 

Electronic dove decoys are legal in Pennsylvania, so why not take advantage of them? A good decoy should be easily mounted or placed in the field.  Our recommendation is the Lucky Duck clip on decoys, which makes placement a breeze.

Recommended: Lucky Duck Clip On Dove Decoys

Dove Hunting Chair or Stool

If party hunting, it’s required to be stationary.  However, once you are in an ideal location, it’s recommended to be stationary anyways. That’s why most dove hunters use a chair or stool.  

A good dove hunting stool is the Hunters Specialties Camo Dove Stool. It’s easy to carry, provides extra storage for your gear, and keeps you comfortable during a long day of hunting.

 

Recommended: Hunters Specialties Camo Dove Stool without Back

Hunting Knife

After a successful morning or afternoon of dove hunting, you’ll likely be spending the remainder of the day dressing your game.

Many hunters truly enjoy the taste of dove meat. It not only works great as an appetizer or dinner side. However, to get the best taste out of the game it’s recommended toremove the breasts with a sharp knife in the field, just be sure you have that knife and some zip lock bags laying around for after the hunt.

Recommended: Havalon Piranta Z Folding Skinning Knife

A Successful Dove Hunting Season

If you are new to dove hunting in Pennsylvania, you are going to find success by spending time scouting.  Remember doves tend to be congested near areas of food, which consist primarily of seeds from plants and leftover crops from fields.

There are plenty of public hunting opportunities in all areas of the state; however, the best areas tend to be in the Southern regions and Northwest corner, where agriculture is dominant.   

Hunters can take advantage of federal lands, state lands, and private land that is contracted under the Pennsylvania Hunter Access Program. A detailed view of these areas can best be found on the Pennsylvania Game Commission site.

Remember to do your research, spend some time scouting, then have fun hunting one of the most enjoyable and popular species in the state.

 

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