Hunting is a great way to spend time discovering nature. It provides an opportunity for people to not only connect with and enjoy our natural resources, but to be an active participant in the wildlife management process and know where some of their food comes from.
One of my favorite activities in the fall is mourning dove hunting. It provides an opportunity for families to spend quality time together afield and sometimes prepare to hunt for the first time. This may include taking hunter education to purchase permits and what better way to connect and share time with a young person in your life than in an educational program? Once the hunter-education certification is completed, where do you go next to learn about dove hunting? While friends and family are great resources, another opportunity is participating in the Dove Hunting Clinic (see description above).
In 2007 on Missouri’s conservation areas, hunters fired 5 to 6 shotshells per mourning dove bagged.
If we use this formula, it takes between 3 and 4 boxes of shotgun shells to harvest a limit of 15 mourning doves. At a conservative estimate of $5 per box of shells, a limit of mourning doves can get expensive fast.
The secret to having better success is to shoot your shotgun early so you become more proficient with it before the season begins. Since wing shooting is a skill that requires good eye-hand coordination, you must practice in order to achieve and maintain your level of proficiency. Here are some tips.
Tip 1: Pattern test your shotgun, choke, and load combination to ensure you have a pattern density that is rich enough to deliver the lethal strikes necessary for quick, clean, kills.
Tip 2: Learn and use the “swing-through” method while hunting so you don’t have to do the math in your head about speed, distance, or angle of the bird.
Tip 3: Practice mounting the shotgun to keep your head erect with both eyes open so your ability to estimate distance and see movement is not hindered. The shotgun should touch your shoulder and your cheek simultaneously as you begin your gun movement.
Tip 4: Keep your eye focused on the head of the bird so when you see the proper amount of forward allowance or lead between the barrel of your shotgun and the bird, you simply “slap” the trigger, firing the shotgun without thinking about it.
Tip 5: Follow through with your gun swing and be sure to watch where the bird drops and mark that spot.
Tip 6: If you are hunting with another person or a dog, send them toward the last location you marked for the downed bird. If your hunting partner is not able to go directly to the downed bird, have them come back toward you and then proceed again making small arches back and forth in increasing size until the bird is retrieved.
Tip 7: Don’t shoot at another mourning dove until you retrieve the last downed bird because this causes confusion and leads to lost birds. Remember if you lose a bird it counts towards your daily bag and possession limit.
Tip 8: Be selective about taking shots. There are lots of mourning doves and you can afford to be selective about taking “high percentage” shots.
Tip 9: Always try to take shots where the birds are silhouetted by sky so that you don’t have to worry about shooting low. Tip 10: Be sure to take a cooler with some ice to hold your birds while hunting in hot weather.
Some other common sense tips include drink plenty of water, use sunscreen and bug spray, wear camouflage clothing, and remain vigilant of other hunters’ actions while afield this fall. For more information about free workshops, programs, and events held at the Andy Dalton Shooting Range and Outdoor Education Center, visit <mdc.mo.gov/andydalton>. Be safe afield and good hunting.