Outdoors column: Early season Mourning Dove hunting

Here in central Minnesota we have a small window of opportunity to chase the Mourning Dove and this window seems to last about six weeks every fall.

Doves are one of the first migratory birds to vacate the state and once the first stretch of cold weather hits, they are off to warmer climates.

We in central Minnesota have a small window of opportunity to hunt the dynamic and sporty mourning dove. Submitted photo

We in central Minnesota have a small window of opportunity to hunt the dynamic and sporty mourning dove. Submitted photo

For this writer, the dove season is the first opener of the fall hunting seasons and to be successful you have do your homework and make things happen in the field. Here are some ideas for aspiring dove hunters looking for success in 2013.

Scouting

This factor is absolutely critical for success today because crop fields have changed in the last few years and your main scouting target should be grain fields such as milo, wheat, sunflowers and oats.

The problem is that most grain fields have been replaced with row crops such as corn and soybeans making for very few grain fields left.

Hit the road and put some miles on and try and find some of these rare fields. If you are lucky enough to find a grain field, chances are that every dove in the county will be feeding there.

If you should have trouble finding grain fields, think water sources as the next scouting subject.

Doves head to water every morning and late evening and can be found around small ponds, small rivers and any potholes that are holding shallow water.

Many times you will be lucky enough to find some tall, dead trees alongside the water sources and these can be dynamite spots for roosting and loafing doves.

Grit is another idea for scouting. Grit is necessary for doves to process their food intake and grit such as sand and coarse gravel will attract doves throughout the day.

When scouting be aware of the grit needed and be especially on the lookout for gravel pits.

Armaments

Doves have been clocked at over 70 mph and they can be a very difficult target to hit.

I recommend a lead of over six body lengths to properly get your pattern into their flight pattern.

Most hunters shoot well behind doves because they are not used to the speed or the topsy turvy flight paths.

Because of these speeds I recommend the best target loads you can buy such as heavy loads of powder and shot in the eight- and nine-pound shot size.

The idea is to get as much shot up in the air as possible because these little missiles are extremely difficult to bring down.

Long ago, I gave up on the 20 gauges and switched back to the 12 gauge.

In my opinion you need as much shot as possible in the air and a 20 gauge just isn’t enough on most days.

Why handicap yourself with a smaller gauge when you can give them the maximum.

Game gird of the future

With the downslide of duck and pheasant hunting in central Minnesota, doves will continue to be the game bird of the future.

Their numbers are great and their habitat is still viable. They will continue to be very popular in the midwest because doves are very widespread throughout the central part of Minnesota and best of all they are outstanding on the grill coupled with a small piece of bacon and a water chestnut. Don’t forget to marinate in soy sauce a few minutes before grilling.

Steve Carney is a contributing writer to the Outdoors page.

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