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Countdown to Dove Season: 5 Ways to Prepare for this Fall’s Hunt

Dove season is right around the corner; how many of these five things have you done to prepare?


Most red-blooded Americans count down the days to fall for two main reasons: football season, and the start of dove hunting season.

But much like how football fans brush up on their players to watch and stockpile beer and nachos, dedicated dove hunters also need to know how to prepare for the season to be successful and enjoy themselves in the process.

Excited for dove season? Check out our rundown on season opening dates and restrictions, and our article last year on how to prepare for a dove hunt and make this your best season yet.

Here are five ways to be prepared before September. View the slideshow and share your own prep tips in the comments.

1. Find Land

For most of us without access to private property, this is the real challenge. In Texas, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) offers a great database of public land in your county. Other dove hunting states should have similar resources, so check ahead of time and learn what you can.

Be sure to arrive well before sunrise, especially on opening weekend, and stake out your spot. Once on site, you’ll want a nice open area, preferably near water, a dense tree line, and a graveling spot.

You might also look for an area doves might be feeding, such as a sunflower or corn field. Real serious hunters will even try and visit a property before opening day, and scout out the perfect place, not unlike a deer hunter.

2. Spend Time on the Range

No one likes to lug a hefty bag of 12 gauge around all day or return to the car for more ammo, so work on improving your speed and accuracy so you can limit out quicker and with fewer shots.

Clay pigeons and lead shot aren’t expensive elements of marksmanship practice, so there’s no excuse. Also spend some time patterning your gun to determine the right choke for the right distance, and ensure your plug fits and nothing hinders your gun’s performance or affect your swing.

Some ranges even have some great trap throwers which will fire random angles and speeds of pigeons, which is great preparation for the quick reaction needed for dove season. Try this site to find a gun range near you.

3. Get the Right Ammo

This is a common mistake for dove hunters, especially beginners facing the overwhelming choice of shot available for dove hunting. Every hunter has their preference, but for a good middle ground I would recommend a number 7 ½ or number 8 shot in 1 1/8 ounces.

Take your ammo to the range and see what best works for you, and if you’re running a semi-automatic shotgun, ensure that your gun ejects what you put in it easily. And while this should go without saying, make sure you’re picking up your spent shells as you go along.

4. Rehearse Gun Safety

I know all hunters are reminded of this all the time, but one more time won’t hurt if it keeps from hurting you. In the madness of opening season and the erratic flight of doves, it’s unfortunately too easy to get tunnel vision and pop off a shot in the wrong direction.

Always be aware of your surroundings, and keep your shots as high as possible. While “snap-shooting” makes up a large portion of dove hunting, stay committed to keeping your safety on while waiting for an overpass and immediately flicking it back on after your shot. Retaking a firearm safety class is never a bad idea.

5. Learn to Clean a Dove

Granted this is a hard thing to learn without an actual dove in your hand, but it’s better to be prepared ahead of time then to learn on your own with several dove sitting in your cooler.

There’s some great online guides to help you with this. Also be sure to know how to preserve or marinate your dove breast filets and have a great recipe at the ready, like our grilled jalapeno dove hors d’oeuvres.

Check out more hunting slideshows

12 Great Game Calls for 2014 Hunting Season

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Countdown to Dove Season: 5 Ways to Prepare for this Fall’s Hunt