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Kick Off Your Fall Hunting With Some Dove Hunting

It’s hard to believe that summer is winding down already; just check the leaves starting to pile up in your yard if you’re still not convinced. I’m not about to put my fishing gear away, but I’m adding hunting gear to my active pile of stuff.

For me, hunting season tends to get underway with the opening of the dove season. Mourning dove season opened on Sept. 2 this year with the usual limit of 15 birds per day. Dove hunting is apparently more popular than I realized. The Pennsylvania Game Commission recently reported that in Pennsylvania on average about 16,000 hunters will take about 100,000 doves. In the U.S., over 20 million are harvested each year.

Dove hunting, especially in the early season tends to be a very pleasant and relaxing type of hunting. The weather is generally warm and sunny and sitting at the end of a field along a tree row may even result in a brief nap if the action is slow.

Dove hunting is also a bit more social; it’s a hunt you do with friends or family members at a more relaxed pace. I like to take a small folding stool along since it makes for a comfortable seat that’s quick and easy to get in and out of and it provides a little height while watching a dove field.

Most dove hunters will don a complete camouflage outfit — a light shirt and pants and a camouflage hat. I like to carry a small backpack with extra shells (you’ll probably need more than you think, especially if you’re seeing lots of doves) and a couple of bottles of water. Freeze or partially freeze a couple of bottles of water and drop them in the backpack; trust me you can get thirsty just sitting for a couple of hours. I usually take along a small plastic bag or two to put my harvested doves in, and then I just drop them in the backpack. The frozen water bottles help keep the doves cool until I get them home.

I prefer to do most of my dove hunting with a 12-gauge pump and 7 1/2 or 8 shot. Doves can be very hard to hit, especially with their erratic flight, so I need all the pellets I can muster to make successful shots. Trust me; it wouldn’t be hard to spend a box or two of shells on one limit of doves.

Doves prefer to eat seeds of pest plants, weed seeds and waste grain seeds-they tend to pick seeds off the ground. Some of their favorite foods include ragweed, corn, wheat, oats, barley, rye, and buckwheat left on the ground. They also like to pick up small pieces of “grit” from the bare ground to help aid digestion. Obviously, it would be wise to hunt near fields that offer preferred dove foods. Doves also like to roost in dead trees and on wires so keep an eye out.

Something new for dove hunters this year is the opportunity to hunt over managed dove fields. Last year the Pennsylvania Game Commission changed regulations to allow the manipulation of crops to attract doves to hunting spots, and they even established some managed dove fields on 26 different game lands. You can learn where these locations are by going to and go to the Mourning Dove page. I checked it out, and the fields appear to be outlined in a bright green border.

Doves are not only fun to hunt, although it can be frustrating at times, but they are also great table fare. Dove hunting is also a good way to practice your shooting skills.

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