Since beginning to write in this spot in the early 1990s, I’ve steadily preached the importance of proper pre-season shooting practice and ample scouting time for September dove hunting success.
But keep in mind that such tactics aren’t all that’s necessary to ensure a great dove shoot.
You’ve also got to be able to pick out the best spots in a feeding field or around a waterhole, or at least learn how to get there quickly if your initial guess proves to be wrong.
As David Davis, a top dove hunting outfitter in the Brownwood area a few years ago once advised me, proper setup is a key ingredient in limiting out on doves.
How do you know where to setup for a red-hot shoot? Simple — think back to your spring bass fishing trips.
“They’ll (doves) follow terrain just like a fish does,” said Davis. “Doves will use bridges, valleys and other types of structure just like a fish.”
Because of that tendency, objects like power poles, tall trees off by themselves, dead snag trees, H-braces in a fence line, a drainage ditch or even an old rusty combine can all be good places for a good shoot.
My Denison High School classmate Mike Bardwell, himself a crack dove hunter in years gone by, once told me to keep in mind that the best spots in a dove field can change from day to day.
True to form, several years ago after enjoying dove hunting success along a treeline on one hunt, Bardwell relayed a tale to me that proved his point. On the next outing, it quickly became apparent that a new spot — a small island of brush in the middle of an old grain field — held the current day’s hot hand.
It didn’t Mike or his dove hunting buddies too long to relocate as a stream of mourning dove whistled by the field’s new hotspot.
By the time the sun had slipped below the western horizon that evening, Bardwell and his cronies were plucking limits of doves and searching for their favorite recipes after enjoying a memorable shoot.
While I’ve enjoyed plenty of good dove hunts in similar key spots located within a feeding field or along a prime flyway, many of my most memorable hunts for these rocketing gray ghosts have occurred around a waterhole.
Keeping the previous lesson in mind, do note that it has to be the right waterhole, one that the doves are using for a last drink of water before heading off to roost for the night.
Most of the time, the right watering spots will be small stock tanks or farm ponds that are dwindling away and clean of any high growing vegetation that might hide a lurking predator.
Sometimes, they’ll even contain a dead snag or two where doves can fly in and perch to search for trouble below.
When such a spot is found, it can be wingshooting gold.
Take the triple-digit September hunt I once enjoyed with my good hunting pal Steve Lewandowski. This former Denison resident, now living in Alabama just north of the Florida Panhandle, teamed up with yours truly years ago to chase doves on a sweltering day when the thermometer hit 111 degrees.
But we also heated up our gun barrels too, finishing that scorching hunt a single bird shy of our limit.
Why were we one bird shy of our limit? Well, it might be worth noting here that my wife — now a reading teacher in the Denison ISD — started her career out as a math teacher. Given my numerically challenged mind, I’m pretty sure that you can connect the rest of the dots.
But I digress. While this weekend’s forecast of severe storms and heavy rains might scramble dove hunting success for a few days, it won’t be long before things are back to normal as mid-season northerly breezes start to bring in waves of migrant birds from the north, the so-called “Kansas doves.”
So as September gets ready to end and October prepares to begin, greet the coming mid-season arrival of new mourning doves by grabbing the shotgun and heading out for another hunt.
Setup properly, and the shooting that you find might provide the best dove hunts of the season, even as most other wingshooters turn their attention to other autumn hunting games.
All of this contingent upon your being able to count right, that is.