I hate to miss the first two shots at dove on opening morning and my black lab Maggie gives me that look.
After all that practice at the skeet range, how could I miss? It’s not fair, dove don’t fly like clay birds. They come in low and fast at daybreak like Japanese Kamikaze pilots. They dare you to hit them and fly away to the next shooter. Studies show that the average shooter takes less than 9 birds per box of 25 rounds. Texas has 350,000 dove hunters and they bag 6 million dove a year. This sounds like a lot but Texas breeding population is around 25 million birds. A pair of dove will nest 3 to 4 times per year but only have two eggs per nest because two is all they can feed the milky liquid that the young eat on each side of the adult’s beak. Let’s see, 9 dove taken per box that would be 667,000 boxes of shotgun shells? No wonder dove hunters spend $316 million per season in Texas.
The past five years I have been using decoys to help bring dove within range. The Mojo is the current rage with dove hunters. It’s a battery operated decoy with spinning wings that imitates a landing dove. I put it out about 20 yards in front of me and add 4 ground decoys. The dove will circle and try to land in the decoys, offering you an easy shot. This works very well around a pond in the evening as dove come in to water, especially this year with our extreme drought. They say over one million ponds are dry in Texas, so water is the place to hunt this year. Good dove fields seem to be in the same place year after year.
I have hunted dove in Indiana, PA, TX and CO. I have tried to create new dove fields by planting wheat and sunflowers with very little success. My observation is the adult dove take the young each year back to the fields their parents took them. You need to be in that flyway to have good numbers of birds. Dove love to land on power lines. If you find a field with seed that has a power line running through it, try to sit next to a pole with your back to the sun. Watch your shadow and keep lined up the pole. When the wind is blowing, the dove like to land into the wind. I’m a right hand shooter and do better swinging to my left, so I put the decoys out to have the wind blowing left to right. I wear complete camouflage and stay in the shade.
Don’t make a move until the birds are in range or they will see you and turn away. I use an over and under shotgun with skeet choke top and bottom. Winchester double A’s with #9 shot is my choice for ammo. You will add several more birds per box using #9’s as it only takes a few shot to knock a dove down and my Lab with catch it. I sit on a dove bucket with a swivel lid, so I can swing and lead the birds. I keep water for the dog and insect spray for fire ants. Later in October the dove starts migrating down from Oklahoma and Colorado. These are large smart birds in large flocks and have been shot at a lot. You need to be camouflaged head to top, even gloves and face mask with a blind or you will never get a shot at them. The Mojo decoy usually doesn’t work as they are wise to them. The ground decoys will work so use at least four. You may have to switch to a modified choke as your shots with be longer.
A dove is easy to clean once you learn how. Lay the dove in your left hand with the breast up. With your thumb and index finger pinch the crop (where the seeds are) and pull up to the head. With both thumbs work the breast skin down to the base of the breast. Put your right thumb under the breast and pull apart with your left hand. This will leave the breast and the wings attached. Break the wing bone near the breast and take the wings off. You do not need a knife or shears with this method. With practice this only takes a minute per dove. You can save the heart, liver and gizzard for cooking or catfish bait.
Most people in Texas grill dove with Jalapenos peppers wrapped in bacon with a tooth pick to hold it all together. This is good eating but dove nuggets are better and I’ve never found anyone who didn’t like them. With a sharp fillet knife cut down beside the center breast bone and take half of the breast off. With two nuggets per dove, put your favorite spices on and roll in flour. In a separate pan mix grape jelly and BBQ sauce 50/50 and heat and stir until smooth. Fry the nuggets in hot olive oil one minute per side. Don’t overcook as the dove will get tough. Pour the jelly sauce mix over the nuggets and heat until it sets up. About 5 minutes. Put tooth picks in each nugget and enjoy. Prepare to cook several as they will be gone in no time.