If you are not prepared for the challenge of dove hunting, you will come home empty handed. Deciding where to hunt, when to hunt, and how to hunt are absolutely vital to dove hunting success. Dove are some of the most difficult birds to shoot, so here are 6 tips to think about this Dove Season:
Dove hunting is different than just about any other kind of wing shot. The birds come in at incredible speeds.
If they sense danger, they can change direction on a dime. Often you will fire at birds over 30 yards away that are about the size of your fist.
These shooting tips will help you land more shots this season:
Increase your Lead – When leading a dove, you need to fire further in front of the bird than you might think. Many of your shots will be at short range with the bird crossing your shooting lane, so your reaction time will lag a little. You want to aim over six feet in front of the bird. As a general rule, one inch of barrel movement equals one foot of lead for the bird. If you shoot like you are going to miss in front of the bird, you will likely put the dove right in the center of your shot pattern.
Find a Stable Shooting Position – Having stable footing when taking your shot is essential to an accurate shot. Often your first shot will be high if your feet are not planted, and your follow up shots will be all over the place. If you are on a bumpy field, take a minute to flatten everything out before you start shooting. Seated shots, like from a hunting stool are completely fine as long as you use good form. You may want to shoot some clays from a seated position to practice the process.
Surprise the Doves – With the advanced eyesight that doves have, you cannot stand up as soon as you see a bird on the other side of the field. They will likely see you and adjust their flight path. Wait until the dove is just starting to enter your range, quickly stand up, plant your feet, mount to your shoulder, and take your shot. If you are comfortable shooting from a seated position, this reduces your movement even more.
Make a Solid Gun Mount – One of the biggest mistakes that wing shooters make is to rush their shot. They shove the stock of the gun loosely in the general area of their shoulder and blast away. Without a solid mount to your shoulder, the stock will move and the barrel will raise. You will miss high almost every time. Take an extra second to get a solid mount on your shoulder, and you will be more accurate.
Shoot at a Single Dove – When birds come down in groups, it can be tempting to just fire at the group. It is a shotgun after all, right? Wrong. You need to focus on one particular dove if you want a good chance of taking it down.
Leading Below Dove – There are two scenarios in which you actually want to aim below a bird to lead them properly. One is when they come in from behind you. In order to lead a dove that is moving away from your sights, you need to shoot slightly below the bird. This will give it time to move into the shot. Also, if you have a bird preparing to land start your aim below the bird and fire once the barrel blocks out your target. This will account for any downward movement.
There is no other type of hunting that will hone your wing shooting ability like dove hunting. It is a great deal of fun and an excuse to spend time with family and enjoy the fall weather. As enjoyable as it may be, it can be frustrating without the proper preparation.
There is no ideal way to practice your shot for dove hunting because of the complexity of their flight pattern. You can shoot clays flying perpendicular across your shooting lane to maximize your leading experience, and practice from a seated position.
Do your scouting, remember these tips, and hunt as often as you can. Most of all, enjoy it!