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Staying Hydrated, Choosing the Proper Choke Size, Shot Size and Using Decoys for Doves


Marty Fischer

Many hunters overlook the fact that if you are not sufficiently hydrated, you won’t shoot as accurately as you can. Also, if you are taking a retrieving dog with you to the dove field, be sure to take water for the dog. Early-season dove hunting, especially in the South, usually occurs when the region has really-hot days. Water is the quickest solution to staying hydrated, but sports drinks can also be beneficial to the dove hunter. There is another product that I use a lot. It has really helped me over the years. It is made by PowerBar and is called PowerGel. I was introduced to this product by a fishing guide, who also has a pheasant-hunting place out in Nebraska. The weather was really cold, and we were probably 1/2-mile from our truck. After a hard day of hunting my, blood sugar went off a cliff. I normally don’t have any problem with my blood sugar, but on this day, I did. All I had was some water to drink. My guide said, “Here take this. Squirt this down your throat, and then take a big drink of water, and you will be okay.” Within 5 minutes after taking the PowerGel and washing it down with water, I felt like I could run a marathon. There are all types of products like this. Long-distance runners use this quick energy gel quite a bit. And, most people are smart enough to know to wear hats out in the dove field, so their brains don’t bake. 

Proper Choke Size Can Make a Difference in the Number of Doves You Harvest

Fischer5_llIn the early season, you will be harvesting many young doves. Their feather development is not nearly as thick, nor are the doves as big as the birds you will take later in the season. So I advise using a choke with a fairly-open pattern. You are not trying to disintegrate the dove. You are just putting enough pellets to quickly, cleanly and efficiently bring it down. During the early season, I use either an improved cylinder choke or barrel or a light modified choke. These two chokes are very efficient from 20 to about 32 yards. Most of the shots that dove hunters take will be within that range, during the early season. If the dove comes in closer than 20 yards, the choke you use won’t matter very much, because the pattern is still going to be tight. The chokes start to perform at distances from 20 to 35 yards. Later in the season, I move up one choke tighter and probably will use a modified choke, because the doves are stronger and bigger in the later season. Also the wind tends to blow more later in the season, and the doves tend to be spookier, because generally the food sources are father apart. The doves in late winter usually are much-more difficult to take than they are early in the season. That’s why I like a tighter choke then. I assume my shots may be farther away from me than they have been in the early season. 

Proper Shot Size Can Make a Difference in the Number of Doves You Harvest

During the early season, I shoot No. 8 shot. Later in the season, I shoot No. 7-1/2-shot. I don’t really think you need to increase your shot size up to No. 6 shot in the late season, because No. 7-1/2-shot usually will down a dove out to 45 yards. If you are taking shots at more than 45 yards, you are just guessing as to whether you can down them or not. 

One good exercise to go through is to step off the yardage from your stand site out to 45 yards. When you see how far 45 yards actually is, you will understand that you hardly can see a dove in flight at that distance. Oftentimes, you will hear dove hunters say, “I downed that bird at 60 or 70 yards.” If you notice, rarely will those same hunters step off the yardage to know exactly how far the dove was from them.  

The Importance of Decoys

I think dove decoys are great. I think a spinning wing dove decoy like the type that Mojo makes is even better, because doves can be attracted by motion. When doves are flying into a field, they are looking down to decide where they want to light. If they see movement that is uncommon or unnatural (like a hunter moving), they will be alerted and often veer away from that movement. However, if they see movement that is natural, like a spinning wing dove decoy, they will come closer to get a better look. I have found that dove decoys can be very effective, and spinning wing dove decoys tend to be the most effective for drawing in doves. Dove decoys tend to give you a closer shot and a cleaner harvest. 

Additional tips: How to Protect Your Eyes and Ears on a Dove Shoot

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