Hunters Scarce, Dove Are Not
October is a great month to chase dove with your favorite hunting partner. (Lynn Burkhead photo)
It's one of the great ironies of the fall hunting seasons. It being the fact that just about the time the dove hunting gets really good in much of the South, the number of hunters chasing these gray little-winged rockets thins out considerably.
Blame a variety of reasons from early bowhunting action to getting ready for November's rush of deer, waterfowl and quail hunting seasons to even the deep and passionate love that Americans have for pigskin action on the gridiron.
But whatever the reason, as dove hunting seasons continue in many areas this month, the hunting is great, even if there are few hunters out there to see it.
So says North Texas outfitter J.J. Kent (www.kentoutdoors.com; 903-271-5524), who just this past weekend had a terrific dove shoot.
And that on the heels of a week where he put several groups of hunters onto good shoots for the flighty doves.
"I'd say the dove are just now really getting fired up," said Kent, a pro-staffer with Zink Game Calls and Avian X Decoys. "It was pretty mediocre the first part of the season but not anymore.
"We've had a good number of northern birds move in over the last week," he added. "One of my guides, Kelly O'Neill, he took out a group of six hunters last weekend not far from our lodge. They were all limited out in no time flat."
Interested in getting in on some of the late season dove action that is currently being found in many spots?
Kent, the Mossy Oak camouflage pro-staff manager for the Lone Star State, offers the following suggestions:
- Don't Be Late: "For whatever reason, birds at this time of year are often flying into fields to feed between 3:30 and 5:30 p.m. each day," said Kent. "One of our groups the other day, they were done by 4:30 p.m. If you get out there a little bit too late – say 5:30ish – you might have missed the mark."
- Don't Flock Shoot: "Doves, from my experience at least, because they are migrating at this time of the year, they tend to fly in bigger groups now," said Kent. "This is when you'll see groups of five to 10 and even 15 to 20 birds come flying by. It's easier to get a double now, but it's also easy to miss if you shoot at the group and don't pick out an individual bird to swing through." If you happen to find a few white-winged doves in Texas, this will usually be the case for these slightly bigger, blockier birds too.
- Wear Camouflage: "I've noticed over the last week or so that the guys that are fully decked out in camouflage – I recommend Mossy Oak, of course – tend to do better than those who aren't," said Kent. "By the time these migrating doves make it down the flyway into the southern U.S., they've been shot at a few times and aren't stupid anymore. Camouflage certainly helps."
- Use Spinning Wing Decoys: "I really believe in using these decoys when I'm dove hunting," said Kent of the spinning wing Mojo style dekes. "I like to put a couple of them out in front of where I'm hunting and I'll set them at different angles so that the sun is hitting them and the doves can't help but see them regardless of which direction they fly in from. I think they work very well most of the season – they certainly did the other day." Editor's Note: Make sure that the use of such decoys is legal in the state that you are hunting.
- Beef Up Your Shot Size: "I typically use 7 ½-size shot all season long," said Kent. "It can give you a little extra edge at this time of the year since the birds are a little bit bigger and are carrying a full load of feathers. I've always had good luck with that shot size and I stick with it."
- Use an After Market Choke: "Some people don't agree with this, but I am a big fan of aftermarket chokes for not only ducks and geese, but also dove," said Kent. "I personally use a Patternmaster Short Range choke for doves. It really helps get the shot string out there to the birds, especially on windy days."
- Don't Fall Behind: "It seems to me that most hunters, when they see a single, a double or a small flock of doves flying by, they simply don't perceive how fast they are moving," said Kent. "The bottom line is that when it comes to missing a dove, few if any hunters do so because they shot too far out in front of the dove. Instead, they usually miss because they get behind the bird and never catch up."
The bottom line for Kent is that now is not the time to give up on dove hunting for the year. Instead, it's the perfect time to record the football game on DVR and to go back into the field to chase these sporty birds and find some of the year's best hunting.
"I think that the October dove hunting is tough to beat," said Kent. "There are less people out there, the weather is cooling off and there are good numbers of birds around.
"Plus, it's a great time to go out on a solo hunt, to enjoy an afternoon out with your hunting pals, to get the dog out, to take a child hunting with you or to introduce your spouse to the sport.
"The bottom line for me is that it's a great time to dove hunt, maybe the best bird hunting you'll get all year."
And who doesn't want to get in on a little bit of that wingshooting action?
Watch “Mossy Oak’s Hunting the Country” and “Fear No Evil” through December on Outdoor Channel. Check the TV schedule page for air times.