Start Shooting Now to Prepare for Dove Season
Whistling rockets buzzing by in warp speed. That’s what it seems like your trying to shoot when dove hunting. These little birds bob and weave and dip and dive like aerial acrobats. Mourning Doves can make the most skilled shooter look like a novice, so you might want to use the next month honing your wing shooting skills before the season opens September 1.
The Mourning Dove is Missouri’s most popular migratory game bird. Their population, both nationwide and in Missouri, is stable with no evidence of a change in abundance. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service estimates the population of mourning doves at approximately 349 million birds.
Dove hunting is an exhilarating experience, and a sound wildlife management practice. They taste pretty darn good, too. Even with such a high number of birds, hunting mourning doves is no easy task. A mature dove is only around 12 inches long, posses a wingspan of 18 inches and weighs a whopping six ounces. Doves are definitely small targets when you consider the fact that they reach flight speeds of up to 55 miles per hour. Knocking enough of them out of the air to fill a limit is a tough task.
The basics of dove hunting are pretty simple. As far as guns go, any 12, 16, or 20-gauge shotgun will work for dove hunting. Take plenty of shotgun shells with you, because you’ll need more than you think. Size 7 ½ or 8 birdshot will suffice. Make sure you know if the property you are hunting requires the use of steel shot or not. Many public properties are steel shot only.
When deciding where to situate yourself and your party, try to locate an already harvested crop field edge with a water source nearby. Doves roost overnight and often fly to water early in the morning and again at dusk. Keep the sun at your back. Doves are hard enough to hit without blinding yourself by looking into the sun. Stay low and break up your outline the best you can, and don’t move until you’re ready to shoot.
For those of you new to dove hunting who feel you could benefit from a mentor, you’re in luck. The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC), National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF), Quail Forever (QF), Pheasants Forever, Friends of the NRA, U.S. Forest Service and landowners are working together to provide mentored hunts for first-time dove hunters all across Missouri.
These mentored hunts are taking place September 1st, the opening day of dove season. All necessary equipment will be provided for you, however you must be properly licensed to hunt doves. A parent or guardian must accompany youth participants between the ages of 11 to 15 years old. It is highly recommend that participants take a hunter education course or take part in one of the dove clinics prior to participating in a mentored hunt.
Space is limited, so registration is required. The registration deadline is August 24. For more information, contact John Burk of NWTF at 573-676-5994 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or Elsa Gallagher of QF at 660-277-3647 or EGallagher@quailforever.org.
See you down the trail…