Draw a Bead on September’s Doves
By Gary Lewis
September 1 marks the opening of Oregon's dove hunt. For some hunters, it's the social event of the year. For others, it's a chance to pull shotguns out of the closet and tune up for fall bird hunting. Whatever reason you hunt doves, your best bet is to go early in the month.
Doves like to roost in flocks, preferring denuded junipers adjacent to feed and water. In the morning they head out to feeding areas and typically will find shade for rest during the middle of the day. Feeding again in the late afternoon, they'll head to water, then to roost in the evening.
They like to fly over water, so good stands can be taken along shallow streams or adjacent to farm ponds and cattle tanks. Set up stands at tree lines or where food is concentrated. In a valley, the birds will fly up and down the trough. A bare tree in the middle of a field is also a good location, especially if decoys are employed.
To a dove, good water is brackish and murky. In order for the birds to make it a regular watering hole, the bank must be bare or at least with little cover nearby to hide sharp-toothed critters. Once a hunter can establish the pattern of a particular group of birds, it is simply a matter of finding cover along their expected flight path.
Set up along the path you expect them to take. Pick a spot with the sun at your back, beneath a tree, between barns, or behind a fence post. Somewhere you can take advantage of concealment and still get good shots. I prefer to set up in spots where I can take them going away. Hunters that prefer pass-shooting might select an opening in the trees or a depression between two hills.
Doves are seedeaters, mostly ground-feeding on corn, wheat, sorghums, and weed seeds. They fly to water, then feed early. They rest at mid-day, feed again in the afternoon, going for water before heading to roost. Most hunters position a stand to take advantage of their movement patterns.
Look for doves on BLM lands near ranches, farms, and other easy feed sources. Watch open grasslands where grass and thistles have gone to seed. Walk the tree lines and look in the tops of dead snags where the birds like to rest. Look close to gravel roads in the evening when birds will be filling their crops.
The doves you'll hunt during the first week of the season are gone by the first hard rain or cold snap. But that'll give you just enough time to clean your shotgun and buy a few more boxes of shells. Northern birds will soon be dropping in on the way south. Even though the experts will say they're gone, good dove hunting can be found through the end of the season.