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8 Tips for More Doves Per Box of Shells

Shane Smith

I have heard that the national average is 5 doves per box of shells, which equates to 5 shots per dove. I don’t know if this is an accurate statement or just something someone made up that sounded right. I would say that is a fair statement in regards to the people I typically hunt with. What about you and your hunting party?
You will find there is an incredible amount of air around a dove when you start shooting at them! So, I will give you 8 tips on how I kill more birds than 5 per box of shells.

dove shooting
1. Take reasonable shots.  It is easy to want to shoot at every bird that is within 50 yards.  But, your chances of killing a dove at that range are minimal at best. Try and find an area where the birds will be within 35 yards, and you have just greatly increased your odds.  Let the birds tell you where you need to be.
2. Follow through the shot.  It has been said a bazillion times, don’t stop your barrel.  When you get on the bird and swing on it, keep your barrel moving as you pull the trigger and after you pull the trigger. Does Tiger Woods stop swinging a golf club when he impacts the ball on the tee? Exactly. Follow through the bird and watch your dead doves per box average skyrocket.

3. Be still until you are ready to shoot.  I see far too many people that will snatch up their gun when a bird is fast approaching and it will flare off and change course.  Keep your gun within an arm’s reach, and don’t make rapid movements when you are reaching for your gun. You don’t have to be hunkered in a blind, but it doesn’t take them long to get wary of hunters and fast movements.
4. Use the right shot.  In my opinion, the best shot sizes for doves are 7 ½ and 8. The growing trend is to shoot high brass 6. I personally feel as though this is a mistake. You get more pellets per load with 7 ½ and 8, and doves don’t have thick feathers like a duck or goose.  Also, they are much more affordable than the high-brass loads.
5. Keep your head down. It is easy to want to look up at the birds coming in while you are trying to kill them. However, you must resist this urge and keep your head on your stock or you will miss 100 percent of the time. You can’t watch the movie and be in it as well. 
6. Shooting Doubles. The best tip for killing doubles is to single out the first bird and kill it FIRST. Then, move on to the second. Don’t start switching from bird to bird and try to kill the whole flock in one shot.  Mentally select a bird and fold it up before you even look elsewhere.  

7. Open your choke. I personally shoot an open or skeet choke in my dove gun. I think too many people are shooting modified and full chokes at doves and leave very little room for error. If you pattern your gun with the above chokes, you want the most pellets at 35 yards and then shoot at 20 yards and see how tight your pattern is.  

8. You can’t kill all of them.  When a large flock of birds approaches, it is easy to tell yourself “I am gonna triple right here. There are so many how can I miss?”  SLOW down and methodically pick out a bird and shoot until it falls. Don’t try and flock knock or you will be left hugging air. 

One last word of wisdom: be safe in the field. There are more shells shot on opening weekend of dove season than in the entire duck season combined.  Yes, we all know people who do not have the best gun safety skills. Be safe and know where everyone in the field is. No dove is worth shooting someone over. Know what is behind your target and don’t take any risky shots; it simply isn’t worth it. 

Bring plenty of shells, but try not to miss more than you think you will! 

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