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Doves Afield

By Scott Irving

Every year we all look forward to the beginning of hunting season. The cool nights, fall colors, and changing weather are an exciting time of year for us as we anticipate the days ahead with gun or bow in hand. Yet before the fall big-game seasons begin, we have a couple other options to kick off our hunting seasons with.

For my family and I hunting season has always started on September 1st for the opening day of dove season. This has been a family tradition for us going back to the mid 60’s when I was a little kid. My brother and I started out as bird dogs for my Dad and Uncle in the hot, desert fields of southern Arizona. Back then the limits were generous.

With dove populations peaking in 1968, hunters were allowed to shoot 20 morning dove and 25 white wing dove per day with a 3 week season in September and another 3 week season in December. I remember when I finally got old enough to shoot a shotgun how excited I was to join the grown ups and hunt dove myself. After a long day in the field we would all return home in the evening with black and blue shoulders and dozens of dove to clean.

We would then have a large family dinner with everyone enjoying Uncle Larry and Aunt Louise’s famous fried dove with mashed potatoes and gravy. Those were good times that all of us look fondly back upon.

If you’ve never hunted dove before, be prepared for a little frustration. They’re a small bird that flies fast and erratic, especially after they’ve been shot at for a couple of days. As far as what kind of shotgun to use, they can be hunted with anything from pump action to semi-auto, a .410 to 12 gauge. My first dove gun was an old Winchester Model 42 pump action in .410 gauge and I started my son with the same gun nearly 40 years later.

Over the years I have used a variety of shotguns to hunt these birds with but have settled down the last few years with a Browning Superposed in 28 gauge. I have found this to be a great choice for dove as I can shoot it confidently and it doesn’t tear up A Successful Huntthe birds as much as some of the larger gauges. This is a tough question though and just like asking someone what the best truck is or what the best sport is. The topic can definitely generate some lively discussion! No matter what you use, the important thing is to have fun and bring home a few birds.

Fast forward the clock from those early days back in the 60’s to now and times have changed for dove hunters. I now hunt doves in Washington State. The season runs from September 1-30 with a 10 bird per day limit. The public land hunting tends to be good the first 2 or 3 days but generally tapers off after that. Nevertheless as summer winds down and gets closer to September 1st, I still look forward to the dove opener with just as much enthusiasm as I did when I was a kid hunting birds in Arizona.

Much as my dad did with my brother and me, my 2 youngest kids started out shagging birds for me when they were 5 or 6 years old. A Great Dove HuntMy 16 year old son has been shooting doves himself for the last 5 years and now looks forward to going as much as I do. With the exception of a few years when I lived in states that don’t have doves, I have rarely missed an opener.

If anything, dove hunting will give you a reason to get out in the field with your shotgun before most big-game seasons open. Who knows, you might even start a family tradition of your own!

The end of a Successful Hunt!