Hunting and Outdoors

Women Afield — Dove Hunting Basics, Part 2

Hunter wearing camo with lab and dove decoy.

In Part One, we reviewed dove habitat and hopefully gleaned a few tips and tactics on scouting good spots. However, when it comes to dove hunting, every time you go afield to hunt these fast flying feathered rockets, you will gain more insight into one of America’s favorite game birds and hopefully discover why they are so much fun to hunt.

Sporting goods store showing shelves full on ammunition boxes.
Dove Loads will likely be clearly marked on the box. Anything from No. 7 1/2s to No. 9s will work though. Check your local regulations first. Just because the local sporting goods sell lead loads, does not mean they will be legal on your hunting grounds.

On a Wing and a Prayer

Because of the fast-paced action dove’s offer, you will burn through some ammo in the field. Most dove hunters typically stand motionless as the birds are approaching, and wait until the last-minute to mount their gun. That movement alone often causes the birds to rocket or flare out of shot range.

Instead, learn how to move and mount the gun in slow motion, pointing the gun at the birds when you mount will reduce the likelihood of the doves flaring before the shot.

Dog Days

Although many dogs and their owners jump at the opportunity to brush up on their skills with dove hunting, getting your canine back into condition after several months of downtime can be dangerous. Keeping hydrated is important while you are hunting, but during the dog days of late summer it is extremely essential, especially for your dog. Watch for signs of heat exhaustion such as fatigue and heavy panting. Limit your dog to retrieving a few doves here and there and not every single dove.

Try to hunt near a watering hole and give your pooch the opportunity to take a dip in between the flights of doves. Look for shade to position yourself and your dog, and pack a collapsible water bowl and plenty of fresh, cool water.

Hunter wearing camo with lab and dove decoy.
Live birds in the area are always the best decoys, but when nature needs a little prompting, a plastic decoy will do the trick. Be sure to place the decoy in sight, watch the wind and space them in a similar manner to the local species.


Dove decoys help draw the birds into closer range, but knowing where to position the decoys can increase your success rates in the field.

Knowing the wind direction is important because doves take off and land with their beaks in the wind, so position your decoys accordingly. If you are using a tree, place the decoys as high as you can reach, but within site of approaching birds. If you plan on using a fence line, take a lesson from the birds and watch for the distance the live birds sit apart from each other on the wire. Typically, it is anywhere from 8 to 12 inches between birds.

The best setup is to place several decoys on the ground, a few in a nearby tree and perhaps a few on a fence line or a fallen tree and all within about 25 to 35 yards of your setup.

Birds’ Eye View

  • Sit still, stay hidden, and use camouflage.
  • Stop moving—including the dog.
  • Use head-to-toe camo and face paint.
  • Use a gun sock or camo hunting tape to cover the shining parts of your gun.
  • Birds are notorious for their keen eyesight and doves are no different. To help mask some of your movement, especially if you’re hunting with a canine or a kid, consider building a small ground blind to aid in your concealment.

Follow the Rules

According to the United States Fish and Wildlife Services (USFWS) doves are the most hunted bird of all the migratory game birds in North America and to hunt them you must have a migratory bird stamp.

The written rules of dove hunting are easy to follow; it is the unwritten rules that often get overlooked.  Despite the fact that the weather maybe hot or whether you’re giving your canine friend a break in the retrieving action it doesn’t matter.

  • You should always pick up every dove shot, no exceptions.
  • Obtaining permission to hunt private land is getting harder and harder to do these days, so please be respectful to landowners.
  • Pick up all of your spent shells, water bottles and any other trash—leave the spot better than you found it.
  • Before you hunt, know and study the regulations.

Maybe it’s the exhilarating challenge of dove hunting which causes hunters to endure the hot days of late summer. Perhaps it is the lore of a family tradition. Whatever the reason, dove hunting is a very popular activity across the country and a great way to introduce new hunters to the world of hunting.

Do you have any dove hunting tips? Share them with us in the comment section.


The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

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