With the start of mourning dove season creeping closer, now is the perfect time to begin planning your dove hunt.
Mourning doves are not complicated birds to hunt, but if you prepare properly and use a few basic strategies, you will significantly improve your odds for success this season.
In the weeks leading up to the start of the dove season, get out in the field and start scouting for places to hunt.
Look for areas that have a food source, water source and trees. Some of the best food sources are in farm areas, especially those with grains and sunflowers. Watch for the birds on electrical lines or telephone poles, which they tend to frequent. Typically, water sources are very near the feeding areas.
When you find a good population of birds, track their activity. Find out where they are feeding and roosting.
It is important to note that mourning doves tend to follow a strict pattern with their activity. Scouting is invaluable in helping you learn that pattern.
When hunting doves, you want to keep yourself out of sight, which means well camouflaged. Some hunters will use blinds, but it is important to remain mobile, because doves will be moving throughout the day.
Early and late in the day, doves are found at their source of water, but during the middle of the day they are found on their food sources. If you have properly scouted beforehand, you will have selected a number of areas to shoot from, that provide adequate cover and a clear shot at the birds
Not all dove hunters use decoys, but they are helpful at drawing the birds toward your location. This is especially true if you know the general area the birds are feeding in, but do not know the exact location on a given day.
The best locations to place your decoys are on fence poles, along fences, on the ground or in trees (as high as you can get). Make sure to place the decoys close to the location you will be shooting from.
Mourning doves can be tough to hit, which is why you should open the choke for a wider pattern to improve your odds of hitting the birds. Use a modified or improved choke for best results.
If a group of mourning doves are flying in, it is important to use patience and concentrate on one bird. If you just shoot into the group of birds, you drastically reduce your odds of success.
When shooting at mourning doves, one of the most important tips for success is to have the proper lead on your shot. When a bird is flying past you, exaggerate your lead by five or six feet. If a bird is landing or flying away from you, shoot below it.
You can also improve your success rate by doing some skeet shooting, before the season starts. This really hones your skills for dove hunting and will keep you sharp once the season begins.
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