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Dove Hunting

By Steve Hall

When it comes to dove hunting, Texas is at the top of the flight.

With nearly 7 million doves harvested annually and more than one-third of a million dove hunters participating, Texas boasts more than one-quarter of all doves harvested and almost one-quarter of all dove hunters in the United States. While mourning doves still reign supreme at more than 5 million harvested yearly, nearly 1.8 million white-winged doves are also taken, and they continue to expand their range.

“Texas is the end of a funnel where doves from Montana to Minnesota migrate to on an annual basis,” notes Shaun Oldenburger, TPWD dove program leader.

It’s not easy to hit this fast-flying quarry, so it’s best to “practice practice practice” shooting sporting clays to prepare for doves, perhaps the most challenging birds in wing shooting. For more information, visit tpwd.texas.gov/dove.

Get Out

Gear Up:

Shotguns and Ammo. 12- or 20-gauge, over-and-under, "plugged" pump and semi-automatic shotguns loaded with 8 lead or 6 to 7 ½ steel shot are most commonly used. Test various types of shot in your gun to see how they pattern. Use and carry only ammo that matches your shotgun gauge. Non-toxic shot is an option that reduces lead’s impact on all wildlife.

Necessary gear. Go with camouflaged game vests or waist-strap dove bags that hold several boxes of shells/spent hulls with a lined game bag. Bring swivel-style buckets or folding chairs for sitting and coolers for bottled water/snacks and bagged dove meat.

Dogs. A trained retriever reduces wounding loss and provides years of great joy and companionship.

Game Care. Take a small, portable game care kit (with knives and shears) afield, including disposable gloves. Carry baggies for dove meat and a waste sack for entrails/feathers.

Water, Sun and Bugs. Proper hydration and sun/insect protection in tall grasses and marshy areas are the two biggest concerns. Plan for it.

Camo and Blaze Orange. Birds see color, so many hunters wear camo but increase safety by using blaze orange, especially on public lands.

Quick Tips:

Safety First! Learn and follow all hunting regulations. Communicate with your hunting companions; stick to your safe zone of fire. Avoid shooting at low-flying birds, especially around other hunters and your sporting dogs.

Muzzle Control. Always point the muzzle of your shotgun in a safe direction and unload when you are no longer hunting.

Dove ID. Be sure of your target before raising your shotgun. Learn to identify non-target dove species and birds that resemble doves in flight such as American kestrels, shorebirds and other protected species.

Shooting Skills. Improving shooting skills (proper stance, target focus and adequate leads) will help you bag more birds, reduce wounding loss and increase safety. Practice shots from a variety angles. Learn to estimate distance and know your effective range (usually within 30-40 yards).

Dove Hunting 101 Workshops. Visit tpwd.texas.gov/education/hunter-education

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