Dove Hunting: Everything You Need To Know


dog retrieving dove

Dove hunting is the perfect introduction to the sport of hunting.

Doves often fly in groups, you’ll get a lot of action and can enjoy a social sport, while also honing your hunting skills.

Dove hunting is something that can be experienced in the United States, as well as the United Kingdom (and across the globe), though with a few key differences between the two countries. 

In many places, dove hunting is possible year-round, giving you plenty of opportunities to participate.

The species of doves that you can hunt may vary throughout the year, though in the United States, you can hunt the Eurasian collared dove 365 days per year because it’s considered an invasive species.

How to Hunt Doves

Dove hunting is an ideal sport for beginners as it is simple compared to hunting other kinds of wildlife.

It’s relatively easy to bag a few doves and it’s a fun way to spend time with fellow hunters. 

All you’ll need to do to go dove hunting is take your shotgun to an open field and wait.

You’ll either sit or stand and watch for the doves to fly by.

When they do, simply aim and shoot.

how to hunt doves

That’s all there is to it. 

If you’ve never used a shotgun before, it is highly advisable to practice at a shooting range before you go hunting.

That way you’ll know how the gun handles and will be ready to aim at the doves you’re hunting. 

Remember, you may be hunting but you still want to learn to shoot well and make a good kill.

The idea is to kill the birds, not maim them, condemning them to pain and suffering.

Season Dates and Getting a License

The United Kingdom does not issue specific hunting licenses, however, you must have a valid certificate for your shotgun.

Under this certification you agree to abide by rules which include that your shotgun cannot hold more than two rounds of ammunition at one time and cannot have a sighting mechanism.

"..the official U.S hunting season starts on September 1st."

You must adhere to any hunting season for your particular prey and also where you are legally allowed to hunt. 

In the United States, you must have a hunting license to hunt any wildlife, including doves.

While you can hunt some kinds of doves year-round, the official U.S hunting season starts on September 1st.

It’s very important to check the hunting dates for the doves you are after. Getting caught hunting them outside the season can result in fines or the loss of your hunting license.

Check the local game and fish websites for the state you live in to get all of the information you need. 

In addition to having a current and valid hunting license, dove hunters in the United States are required to participate in the Harvest Information Program.

If you’re hunting birds that migrate, doves included, you’ll need an additional stamp or permit.

After the season ends, participants in the program are asked to fill out a survey about their experience, which helps set future hunting seasons for migratory birds. 

Choosing the Right Shotgun

Having the right shotgun can make or break the success of your hunting trip.

Each hunter will have a different idea of what makes the ideal shotgun for dove hunting.

For that reason, you should try out a few options to find one that works for you and that you’re comfortable using. 

shotgun for dove hunting

Most shotguns are either 12-gauge or 20-gauge and are the most common weapons you’ll see for dove hunting.

In the United States, your shotgun can’t hold more than three rounds of ammunition at one time.

Be sure to check the local regulations regarding the specific rules about shotguns and the accessories that are allowed and aren’t allowed. 

Because dove hunting is so easy, when compared to hunting other wildlife, experts caution against spending a lot of time agonizing over which shotgun to use.

Any shotgun will work but be sure you can handle it safely before you head out to the field where you’ll be hunting. 

What to Wear for Dove Hunting

Much like any shotgun will work for dove hunting, the clothing you need is basic and simple.

A pair of jeans and a camouflage shirt is a great option.

You’ll be comfortable and will blend in with the surroundings in a way that ensures the doves are willing to fly nearby.

You might also wear pants and shirts in earth colors, such as tan, brown, khaki and olive green.

choosing hunting clothes

No matter what you wear, it’s a good idea to hide yourself to some degree so the birds aren’t scared about getting close enough to shoot. 

In addition to the right clothes, a hunting belt is important.

This gives you a place to hold your water bottle, extra ammunition and is a good way to secure the doves you’ve already shot so they are easy to pack up to take home. 

Sturdy shoes are also important.

You may have to walk some distance to get to your hunting ground and the right shoes will protect your feet and keep you comfortable.

Hiking boots are a good choice, but if you’re simply driving out to a field to shoot, sneakers are more than adequate. 

Best Places To Hunt Dove

The best place to dove hunt is anywhere that the birds are congregating.

The larger the number of doves, the higher your chances of successfully bagging a few of them.

"Wheat or cornfields, ponds and sunflower fields are prime places to hunt for doves." 
cornfields are a good place to hunt doves

Wheat or cornfields, ponds and sunflower fields are prime places to hunt for doves.

Make sure the fields or ponds you choose are on public land that permits dove hunting.

You can often find this information on the state or county website. 

While you can dove hunt in virtually any state in the United States, some offer better than average opportunities.

If you’re an avid hunter and don’t mind traveling to shoot the birds, Texas is known to be one of the best places.

Kansas, South Dakota and Nevada are also well-known for their dove hunting, as are Georgia, Alabama, Missouri, Arizona and Nebraska. 

In the United Kingdom, you can pigeon hunt in places where you’ve been given permission.

In some cases, you can also book a hunting tour that allows you to experience the sport in places you might not otherwise be allowed to shoot.

Shooting and game sports websites are a good resource for finding out where you can hunt for pigeons. 

Methods for Hunting Doves

Though dove hunting is considered easy, there are some methods you can use to ensure a higher rate of success. Pass shooting is the most common.

This involves sitting in the right area at dawn or dusk.

You’ll simply wait for the doves to fly over and aim for them as they do.

With this method, it’s important to wait for the birds to be in your range before you shoot.

That way you can bag them without scaring off the others. 

Some dove hunters use decoys, which help attract the living doves so they are in their range and easier to shoot.

Use both moving and fixed decoys to create the most realistic environment for luring in the doves you are hunting. 

dove hunt

Many hunters will also scout the area before they attempt shooting the doves.

This involves visiting the place you want to hunt during the time in which you’ll be hunting.

You can scout the area and watch for the patterns of the doves and the best times to see them coming into your range. This is often done without shooting any of the doves.

It’s a way of finding the ideal location.

Keep your eyes on the corner of the hunting ground.

This is often where the doves will end up. They also tend to congregate on the edges of a field.

Watch this area for your chance to get several doves at one time. 

Polarized shooting glasses are a great option for better visibility before sunrise and at dusk.

Even in darker lighting, the glasses will help you seek out the doves so you can properly aim for them when they enter your range. 

Finally, be sure you take adequate supplies of food and water with you when you go dove hunting.

Watch out for other wildlife that may be attracted to your food supplies.

You’ll probably also want some sunscreen and bug spray, depending on the time of day when you go dove hunting. 

What to Do with the Doves

Part of the fun of dove hunting is feeling successful that you’ve shot a few of them.

What you may not realize is that dove meat is tasty and can be prepared in several ways.

The most common way to prepare dove meat is to top it with a jalapeno and wrap it in bacon, then grill or fry it. 

You can also marinate the dove meat and bake or grill it.

Try breading it and deep frying as you would chicken or grind the meat and use it to make burgers or meatloaf.

The meat has a mild flavor that also works well for tacos or fajitas in place of chicken. 

Dove hunting in the USA is an enjoyable and social sport that is great for beginners and experts.

You’ll love the thrill of the hunt and the meat you can enjoy when you get home.

Being sure to follow all of the local rules and regulations and having the right gear and equipment ensures that you have a great time and a successful hunt. 

Pigeon hunting is a different ball game and is not considered a sport (however you can still eat them!) – more a method of pest control and most pigeons that have been shot do end up being a meal.

Dove Hunting in the United States vs. the United Kingdom

Although the principle is the same, there is one huge difference between dove hunting in the USA and the United Kingdom and it is all to do with land access

In the United States, hunting is allowed on public lands.

In fact, in most places, it’s illegal to hunt on private lands.

dove hunting

The doves that fly on these lands belong to the public, allowing anyone with a license to hunt for them. 

In the United Kingdom, wildlife belongs to the landowner.

There is very little of what would technically be common land.

Much of the land that would be considered public is actually owned by the government and subject to the ruling laws of the land.

For that reason, the upper and landowning classes make up a large majority of those who are able to hunt.

The amount of money that the average hunter in the United Kingdom spends to hunt each year surpasses what the average American hunter spends by more than 10 times

However, the technique and gear needed is universal.

Learning more about dove hunting and how it’s done is important.

It enables you to decide if it’s something you want to try and if so, it ensures that you have an understanding about the process so that you can have a safe and successful hunt. 

Doves vs Pigeons and the UK Issue

The other major difference between hunting in the UK and USA is that there is no specific dove hunting season in the UK.

Doves aren’t really hunted, but pigeons are.

Doves that look like wood and common pigeons may be shot in a case of misidentification, but hunters rarely set out to shoot doves.

The UK does have hunting seasons but they are for game birds such as grouse, partridge and pheasant.

Pigeons are not game birds.

They are considered pests and therefore can be hunted all year round under general license – however, there are so many caveats, codicils and sub-regulations that you need to be very clear on what you are shooting, where and even more importantly, why.

The general licenses have been subject to change every year for the past few years so you also need to stay abreast of any updates – pigeons are always a major discussion point.

Recent Posts