By Steve Carney
Of all the game birds I chase during the fall, doves are my favorite! They are plentiful, cunning and no gamebird flies faster on the wing than a dove. The flip-side is that the season is short, often dictated by the overnight temperatures. Here is a primer on hunting the most challenging and prolific game bird in the Midwest.
Doves are seed feeders. This means they feed in wheat, oat and sunflower fields often daybreak to sundown. Freshly picked corn fields are sometimes a draw as well. The issue in Minnesota is finding grain fields as everything has been converted to soybeans and corn, leaving a very small percentage in grain. When you discover a grain field, it’s golden as every dove in the vicinity will be using that field.
Doves have a tendency to drop into a field from the same direction time after time. If you watch them, they develop a flight path that they enter and exit the field from the same spot. These entry and exit spots are where you want to be. Once I determine their pattern, I employ some spinning wing decoys and ground feeder decoys about 25 yards within the field. You can’t put out too many decoys for doves. They are a very gregarious creature and love company. Many times they will drop straight into the decoy set up and other times they will fly close to the decoys because of their curiosity. Without decoys you will have a tougher time.
On the grill
A dove is best described as a combination of a pheasant and a Hungarian partridge. The tiny breasts are both light and dark meat and very tender on the grill. Wrapping the breasts in a piece of bacon, add a little teriyaki sauce and add a water chestnut, you are good to go. I think when cooked properly, they are the best on the planet.
Dove populations are the highest they have ever been. In Minnesota, September is the prime month because once the air temperatures hit freezing, it’s good bye doves.