Dove Hunting Tips
hunting Tips and scouting

Seek and Ye Shall Find – The most valuable thing you can do while dove hunting is to observe dove flight patterns. The majority of birds will follow patterns and use landmarks for navigation. Figure out where they are flying and then move into their flight line. Dove often fly along fences, ditches, tree lines, rivers and sloughs. They loaf in trees near water and have the same pattern day after day while in an area. Scout every year before the season opens as sometimes the flight paths change. Have a plan “B” just in case of a road or land closure. You don’t want to be scrambling opening morning looking for a place to shoot.

Make Like a Post – When doves are approaching stand or sit still, movement will flare them. You will have plenty of time to mount and shoot as the dove comes into range. Stand behind a tree or bush, not out in front to break up the outline of your body. Stand in the shadows to stay hidden. Sit on a stool to keep your upper body below the brush line. You can wear camo to be harder to spot but you can also be shot because someone didn’t see you. Make this decision depending upon how many people are around you.

Suck em In – Doves like to perch in dead trees. You can use dove decoys that have a clothespin for attaching to fences or tree branches to give the appearance of doves securely resting or feeding . Decoys work good around waterholes, just remember to pick a good hiding spot that is in range.

Now Where Did I Put That Dove? – Mark your downed bird first before you you try to shot the second dove, especially if you are without a dog. Another trick when the shooting is fast and furious is beforehand, gather a few small rocks and tie about a foot of orange contractors ribbon to it. When you down a bird throw the ribbon rock in the area it fell then you can move to another bird and do the same. If you are losing birds, forget trying for a double and try just shooting one dove and concentrating on marking it where it lands.

Keep it Cool – It’s hot dove hunting anywhere in California so take plenty of water and a cooler to keep your doves cool in the heat. Take a stool or bucket to take some load off your feet if you’re going to be out for extended periods of time. Take some sunblock too if you don’t want to burn and a hat to keep the sun out of your eyes. If you are hunting with a dog, make sure to carry additional water for your dog. It also pays to avoid hunting during the mid-day hours when it can be quite hot. Be prepared for cold temperatures at night.

Buzzworms – Lots of good dove hunting areas are good rattler areas too. Wear snake chaps and watch wear you stick your legs and hands. If you have a dog, there are snake avoidance classes that will teach ole “Spot” what a buzzworm smells and sounds like. It may save you a lost dog or huge vet bill.

Good Shooting Form – Set up so that you can take your best shot. Every wingshooter has a favorite shot so use it to your advantage. Keep your cheek down on the stock, pulling your cheek off the stock will cost you birds. Find the best lead method that works for you. You can shoot swing through lead, sustained lead or spot lead. Make sure you have good footing where you are set up. Clear any rocks or sticks away that will cause you to take an off balance shot. Use good footwork. Take a half-step before swinging on a dove, planting your foot on the line where you plan to take your shot. Take a step back for a straight-on bird, a step forward for a straight-away bird and a step away from a bird crossing either right or left. If a bird is coming from the right, take a short step to the left slightly away from the bird. This will allow a little more room to swing on the bird and follow through.

Be Prepared – Try and get a few practice rounds in at the range or throw a few clays to get back in the swing of things before the opener. Break out your gun a month before the season and make sure it is functional and cleaned. If you have any problems, you’ll still have time to run it by the gun shop and still make it for the opener.

Biology 101
Meat Care and Recipes
Hunting Safety
Hunting Links

Scientific Name:
Zenaida macroura

Physical Description:
The mourning dove is a member of the family of birds called Columbidae. Male and female mourning doves look very similar with pale buff-brown head, neck, breast, and belly. Purple and green iridescence on neck. Small black mark on lower neck. Medium brown back and upperwings, with large black spots on coverts. Long tail is pointed at tip. Dark brown tail with white tips to outer four tail feathers, which show during flight. Juveniles can be distinguished from adults by light buffing on the tips of the primary feathers which persist until the first molt. Dark brown mottled head neck and breast. Scaly neck and upperwings with numerous black spots on coverts and scapulars. Pale belly. Medium length tail is pointed at tip. Young are indistinguishable from adults by the age of 3 months. Length: 10.5 inches. Long pointed tail is distinctive for adults, while black spotting on coverts and pale color help distinguish it from White-winged and White-tipped Doves. Juvenile is easily confused with Common Ground Dove and Inca Dove, but is longer necked, shows a pointed tail with more white at edges and lacks cinnamon in primaries. Juvenile Mourning Doves are also scaly and tend to be more extensively scaly. Inca Dove is longer-tailed, scaly on the belly and back and lacks spotting on coverts. Rare Ruddy Ground-Dove lacks scaliness and has black underwing coverts.

Common Ground Dove Scientific name – Columbina passerina. Length: 5.5 inches. Color – Black-tipped orange bill. Gray-brown back and upperwings. Breast and head scaly. Black spotting on wing coverts. Cinnamon inner webs of primaries visible in flight, and occasionally at rest. Cinnamon wing linings. Short tail is slightly rounded at tip. Tail is brown centrally, with black edges and white corners. Juvenile similar to adult female. Adult male: Pinkish-buff head, neck and breast. Pinkish unscaled belly. Blue hindneck and nape. Adult female: Pale gray head, neck, nape, and breast. Gray unscaled belly. Common Ground doves can also be distinguished from Mourning doves by their flight, they tend to hug the ground even lower than the Mourning dove and flit about more like sparrows.

Productivity: Mourning doves are very prolific birds. The nesting season runs from April to September; peak nesting is May through August. Each pair produces multiple broods each year. Mourning doves lay two white eggs per clutch and raise between two and five clutches per year. Both parents take part in incubation and brood-rearing activities. Young doves, or squabs, hatch featherless and grow rapidly, increasing their weight by 14 times within 15 days of age. Young can survive on their own 5 to 9 days after leaving the nest and most leave the nest area within 2 to 3 weeks of fledging. Doves build scant nests of twigs and grass usually placed in trees or shrubs 10 to 30 feet above ground. In open areas, coniferous shelterbelts and windbreaks are preferred for nesting.

Habitat: Mourning doves are highly adaptable to a variety of habitats including coniferous forests, deciduous forests, residential, urban, and agricultural landscapes. Habitat needs include trees for nesting and roosting, a food source and a source of water.

Abundance: Mourning doves are one of the most abundant and widely distributed birds in North America. The breeding range extends from central Canada in the north to southern Mexico in the south and encompasses all of the lower 48 states.

Foods: Ninety-nine percent of the mourning dove diet is comprised of weed seeds and grains. Preferred weed seeds include pigweed, foxtails, wild sunflower, and ragweed. Preferred grains include corn, sorghum and millet. Insects make up a very small proportion of the dove diet. Doves move an average of 2-8 miles for food.

Effects of hunting: Continent-wide hunting mortality is estimated at 10-15% of the fall population annually. This mortality is believed to be below the level which would significantly decrease long-term dove abundance or hinder expansion of geographic area. Hunting is monitored and managed by professional wildlife biologists from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and state wildlife agencies.

Mortality: The natural mortality rate for mourning doves is high; approximately 6 out of 10 birds do not survive from one year to the next. Research indicates that mourning dove mortality is caused by a variety of factors including predators, disease, accidents, hunting and weather extremes.

  • It is very important to cool bagged doves as soon as possible and keep them cool.
  • You should use a container that will keep the doves cool and dry.
  • Do not let them get wet or sit in water because it promotes bacterial growth, which increases the chances of spoilage.
  • Keeping the dove cool is even more important during the warmer, earlier part of the season.
  • Marinate in Italian dressing.
  • Slice along the breast (either side) and insert jalapeno, onion, and bell pepper, you decide.
  • Wrap in bacon and grill over mesquite.
  • For 12 doves. Breast out the doves. Mix some white flour with a little salt and pepper, then dust dove breasts with the flour mixture.
  • In a pan or skillet, heat equal parts of butter and olive oil (about a tablespoon of each per dozen birds), add a tablespoon (or to taste) of chopped garlic, and sauté garlic for a minute.
  • Add the dove breasts and sauté until browned. Do not let the garlic burn.
  • Add 1/4 cup chopped onions and continue to cook.
  • When dove is browned, add 1 cup heavy cream, some sliced fresh mushrooms, chopped parsley (tarragon is excellent if you have it) and cook for a few minutes until cream thickens, being sure to scrape up the bits on the bottom of the pan.
  • When the cream is reduced, add a splash of dry white wine or brandy,(bourbon is good in a pinch).
  • Serve over egg noodles or wide pasta with good crusty bread, green salad, and a dry white like Chardonnay.

Then go get more dove! Enjoy.

Dove hunting is a relatively safe sport. However, it is imperative that to remain a safe sport that certain safety rules be adhered to without exception. When you take a newcomer, especially children, into the hunting experience, part of your responsibility as a hunter is to teach that person proper safety. The following rules are good ones to LIVE by:


1) Always treat the gun as loaded.
2) Never have a loaded gun except when hunting.
3) Always make sure that the barrel and action are clear of obstructions.
4) Always carry your gun so dig you can control the direction of the muzzle, even if you stumble.
5) Always keep the safety on until the gun is brought to the shoulder.
6) Always make sure your target is a dove and your backstop is not a hunter or a dog.
7) Never point a gun at anything you do not want to shoot.
8) Never leave guns or ammunition within reach of children or careless adults.
9) Never climb trees or fences with a loaded gun.
10) Never shoot at a flat, hard surface or water.
11) Never drink alcohol or take other mood-altering drugs before or during a hunt.

Always know where all members of your hunting party are. The more members in your party the more difficult this will be. It is recommended to keep hunting parties as small as possible, preferably two, but no more than three. If you are with a large party, try to spread out or split into several groups of two. If your party has found some dove, determine in which directions it would be unsafe to shoot. Each person should wear some safety orange, a little is better than none. Also wear safety glasses to prevent an eye injury from stray pellets. If you have to chase down a crippled bird, make sure your gun is on safety.’ Almost all good dove country is good rattlesnake country. Be careful around brush and water. When hunting always be sure to carry plenty of water. If you are hunting with a dog, make sure to carry additional water for your dog. It also pays to avoid hunting during the mid-day hours when it can be quite hot. Be prepared for cold temperatures at night.


Active Ammo …. is no longer in business. Kent Cartridges bought the company in 1997 and Kent does not make the nickel plated shells anymore, sorry.

Federal Ammo

HEVI-SHOT™ …. Revolutionary, non-toxic lead shot alternative. With HEVI-SHOT™ shells, you can shoot a smaller shot size with more lethality. More pellets at a higher energy means more knock-down power. This new shotshell pellet is actually heavier than lead with the hardness similar to standard steel shot. It is made from a tungsten alloy and the hardness and density allow hunters to use smaller shot sizes to get equivalent energy as in larger lead or steel pellets. Because the pellet is smaller, this allows for more pellet to be in a shotshell cartridge which makes for a denser pattern, increasing the likelihood of multiple hits on the target. Both penetration and retained velocity are also greater with these pellets. Darryl Amick, who holds the patent on the tungsten-nickel alloy used to make this new shot, said he set out to offer something heavier than lead that would be even more effective for hunters. “My passion for this product is that I hate the fact that we wound these birds, that we have to shoot steel. I’m also absolutely committed to making this product as inexpensive as possible, and we’d like to be significantly under the other non-toxic alternatives to steel,” said Amick. “It’s going to perform better. I don’t think anyone can argue that. It’s just a matter of keeping costs down so guys can afford it,” said Amick. You will be hearing more about Hevi-Shot in the near future as it becomes available for both reloaders and in loaded offerings.

Kent Cartridge ….. IMPACT™ shot shells are specifically designed to deliver the pattern density and down range lethality required by dedicated turkey hunters. These loads may be used in any Nitro-proofed shotgun without fear of barrel or choke damage. Standard choke restrictions and lead shot size recommendations apply, including X-full Turkey.

Remington …. Guns and ammo.

Winchester Ammo …. Makers of great ammo.