Dove Hunting: Choosing a Stand Location to Limit Out on Doves
By: Jeff Mitchell
When choosing a stand location for dove hunting, I like to think of it the same as any type of migratory bird setup. Doves will travel between feeding, watering, and resting areas throughout the day just the same as most migratory birds. The hottest areas for doves tend to be found near livestock pastures, wild growing grass meadows, and sunflower fields. Sunrise is the best time to hunt doves as this is a time when they are very active flying from roosting to feeding areas.
Early in the morning you’ll see doves sitting on wires and dead timber trees. Look for the birds to start coming off the roost at first light and head towards an area of interest to feed. Once doves fly off of the roost, they will not return until late evening, but they will occupy other resting areas during the day. Throughout the mid-morning, you will find them flying between feeding fields, gravel areas such as logging roads, and any nearby water source. Key areas to focus on when deciding on a stand location are tree lines on the edge of crop fields, fence rows near pastures, and grassy field edges. I always try to choose a stand location in a heavy fly zone, facing into the wind, and with the sun to my back. If the sun is directly in my line of sight downwind, I will choose a cross-wind set instead, because having the sun at your back is crucial to your concealment. If possible, I also try to choose the side where I think the doves will be flying in from left to right which offers a more natural shot for right handed shooters. Determining which side the doves will fly is not a guarantee, but I always try to put the highest odds in my favor. Usually, the first dove that comes in will tell you how good you did with your setup. Watch how the birds react when they commit to your set, and try to learn what you did right, and what you can change for next time.
For attraction, I like to use a dove tree decorated with regular and motion decoys in addition to active ground feeding decoys. This setup has brought me much success over the years with only minor modifications. It is truly amazing how far away a dove can be and still make a turn and come into your setup after seeing the active motion of your decoy set. If you are creative, you can design the majority of your set with homemade materials, and then you can experiment with what works best for you.
When approaching birds are spotted, keep your head down looking only through the rim of your hat. Try not to make any sudden movements until the birds are within range. Setting up about 10 to 15 yards from your decoys is a perfect distance for offering a good shot while also keeping the bird’s attention off of you. Making good judgment calls on your shot is also important. Doves will come in fast, and they are rarely offering an easy shot. Try to read the birds posture in flight. If the bird has its tail spread with its wings out fluttering, the bird is trying to decoy. Let the bird get as close as you can to your set before you reveal your position. If the bird seems to be on a straight pattern, and it is only going to skirt your set up, go ahead and take a shot if it is within range. When a dove is flying in with its tail still in a sharp point position heading toward your decoys, the bird will be inspecting your setup in a flyby pattern. This is where you can decide to give it a chance to circle or take the shot on the flyby. If you decide to take it, the shot will be fast, so be ready! A dove can fly in upwards of 65 to 70 miles an hour with a good wind behind them. When you do your prep work and choose a good stand location, the action will be as fast as it is fun. Think safety first and keep your eyes to the sky.