How to Bag More Doves
I can remember, many years ago, hauling a five-gallon bucket filled with shotgun shells a sandwich, and a couple of cold Sun Drops to the dove field. Sometimes the sandwich and Sun Drops were gone way before any Tennessee doves hit the ground and sometimes they never did. There were also times, those that are remembered the most, when those Sun Drops were hot and that sandwich was soggy after non-stop action kept me from them. Rest assured though, at the end of the day back at the pick-up truck for pictures and stories, Those soggy sandwiches and hot Sun Drops tasted like a steak dinner on Saturday night. Here are a few tips for dove hunting in Tennessee for beginners based on those early days in Lynchburg, Tennessee.
Dove season is a much anticipated day in the South. Some openers leave you wondering where the dove is while others are made for life-long memories and endless stories for the campfires and cookouts. Oh, and those dove-less hunts do still mean something. Friends and family get together and share in the misery of dusty sweat and 90-degree temperatures. Laughs can be heard across the field as folks head home early hoping for a better hunt next time. Seldom do I recall a bitter word voiced in a dove field no matter how tough the hunt. I remember many more bitter words when the doves were everywhere and someone, maybe me, couldn’t hit one to save their life. Hopefully, these tips can help you bag more doves and enjoy those hot Sun Drops and soggy sandwiches at the truck.
Dogs for Hunting Doves
I was never fortunate enough to have a dog for dove hunting, but I did have friends that did. When I was able to witness those hunts and the dog in action it was something to behold. To make a great shot on a fleeting dove is a great thing. To lose that dove in the bush can be devastating. It will take your from the highest of highs after a great shot to the lowest of lows when you tromp the bushes right where you saw the bird hit and never finding it.
A well-trained dog will not only mark the fall, but it will also sniff out the dove and never leave one for the buzzards and the ants. Dove hunting with your dog is also a great way to get them in shape for the upcoming waterfowl season. If that’s your thing. It goes without saying that while having a dog to retrieve your kill helps you bag more birds, nothing compares to the moments and memories you create together. Rest assured when your dog is hunting for his master he’s in his happy place and while we can’t know for certain I can say with confidence that the same memories you file away that day your dog is doing the same and maybe from a slightly different perspective.
Decoys for Dove Hunting
When it comes to decoys some will tell you they’ve never thought of using them. While others will tell you they wouldn’t hunt without them. While there are two different takes on using dove decoys there is also two different types of dove hunters. I believe that if you were to compare the two different philosophies you might find that there is a correlation between the two.
On one hand, the hunter that has never thought of using decoys probably hunts large fields with lots of hunters. You will rarely see a decoy used in these hunts. The hunters rely on massive amounts of food to attract large numbers of doves into the field. These doves are kept flying by the hunters attempting to harvest them. If you’re on the opposite end of the field from where the dove came in you’ll understand why they become much harder to bag.
On the other hand, the hunter that swears by using decoys for dove hunting is probably a lone hunter that likes to hunt out of the way places away from all the “LOW BIRD” yells and raining 8-shot. These hunters hunt doves in a strategic location either leading to the dove field or away. Many variables here so I’ll leave that determination to you as your dove hunting prowess improves with every hunt. But rest assured that decoys will help bring in doves, especially in these small isolated hunting spots.
These spots can be roosting areas surrounding a field that has plenty of food and doves coming to it. You could find a spot to set up near a dove field you don’t have permission to hunt. You could get permission to a piece of property nearby that offers access to one of these spots like a pond or a staging area. Setting up decoys in these spots can help you bag plenty of doves before the hunters in the field even see the doves. Another great thing about solo hunting with decoys is that the doves are much less spooky because these areas are normally void of hunters and shots.
My last suggestion for a dove decoy spread is by far my favorite. It’s my favorite because for the solo hunters this tactic can be the most effective for decoying doves. A pond or creek near a known feeding area can be a magnet for doves. Early morning and late evening is probably the best time to hunt a water hole but I have been surprised before. Sometimes doves will be moving at times you least expect them to. It could be a storm moving into the area or sometimes pressure can alter when doves will feed.
Setting up decoys at a waterhole isn’t just a random thing. By learning dove habits you can greatly improve the effectiveness of your decoy spread. Bringing more doves into range. Look for short grass or no grass. Doves prefer not to land in grass that can hide a predator. Set the decoys where there is short grass or mud. Gravel is a great dove attractor as well. They use this gravel to grind their food. Don’t just place decoys at the water’s edge. Dove decoys at the water’s edge is great for instilling a sense of security. Oftentimes though, doves want to scope things out before dropping in for a drink. Be sure to place decoys in branches off the ground. The doves will land here to check out the watering hole. Make sure this spot is within range, it will offer the best flying shot of all.
Enjoy the Dove Hunt
The most important thing of all is to enjoy the hunt. Some of my best hunts have seen the fewest kills. Take a kid or a pup along and introduce them to the field. Always stay positive when there’s a hunter, this includes a dog, new to dove hunting. Dogs can sense when their master is having a bad day just like a kid can. You don’t want their first impression of dove hunting to be a bad one. And remember always pack an extra baloney sandwich for when the birds just refuse to fly.
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