As noted in the 2019 Texas dove hunting preview elsewhere on this page, this might not be a banner year for dove hunters in Texomaland.
While conditions are great — maybe even epic — in the central and southern portions of Texas to the south of the Waco area, fewer birds being observed closer to the Red River Valley make getting a limit here a bit more of a chore.
With that in mind, keep these seven tips in mind for better dove hunting this season, one that will hopefully get better with the passage of each successive autumn cool front:
Be Legal — From making sure that you have a valid hunting license with all necessary endorsements and stamps to ensuring that your shotgun is properly plugged to hold no more than three shotshells (a requirement when hunting migratory birds) to making sure that you aren’t hunting a baited location, being legal is a must.
Spend some time going over the hunting regulation booklet before going afield to make sure you stay on the right side of the law. Otherwise, you could end up with an expensive ticket that will ruin your day, not to mention your wallet.
Be Safe — Put simply, there is no substitute for being safe in a dove hunting field or around a waterhole. For starters, never shoot in the direction of another hunter or over their heads, no matter how far away they might be.
Next, don’t shoot a shotgun anywhere without wearing foam ear plugs, some shooting earmuffs, or a set of solid electronic inserts molded to custom fit your ears. Otherwise, expect to need a hearing aid someday.
And finally, please note that the same principle goes for wearing shooting safety glasses too — you only get one set of eyeballs, so protect them from an errant shot pellet at all costs.
Use a Decoy — If there are fewer doves around the area as the 2019 season starts, maximize your chances to lure in an extra bird or two by using decoys.
Have a few still decoys put out on a barbed wire fence, on the limb of a dead snag, or even on the ground in front of your position. And of course, have a spinning wing decoy or two set out to gain the attention of doves that might otherwise pass you by.
Upgrade Your Ammunition — First things first, save the #7 1/2 shot for a third shot or later in the season when birds are bigger and have their wintertime plumage on.
In the mean time, opt for #8 shot or even #9 shot early in the fall when the weather is warm, birds aren’t as heavily feathered, and many birds are smaller.
Next, skip the bargain basement boxes of so called “dove loads” available at your local hunting retail store. Instead, spend an extra dollar or two for heavy dove loads or high-quality trap loads that have better overall components, more powder, higher shot velocities, and more shot pellets per shell.
Right Gun, Right Choke — A downed mourning dove might not look like much in the hand, but despite being a puff of gray feathers that weighs mere ounces, doves can provide a surprisingly tough wingshooting challenge.
Especially on a sultry September day when a stiff breeze is blowing.
How can you increase your shooting odds? By using the right shotgun and the right choke combination, a combo that delivers a pattern that is dense enough to knock a bird down out to around 30- or 35-yards.
In general, unless you’re a real wingshooting expert, you’re usually better off shooting a 12-gauge or a 20-gauge most of the time with an improved or modified choke screwed into the end of your shotgun barrel.
Find the X — When you get to a dove hunting field or a waterhole over the next week, spend a few minutes looking before you start your hunt.
Wait until you’ve seen a pattern develop about where, when, and how local doves are flying, finding the proverbial X. Once you find that spot, get there and stay put until dove movement suggests otherwise.
Follow Through — Most dove hunters — for that matter, most wingshooters — miss behind a bird or target, not in front of it. To combat that tendency, get the barrel of your shotgun moving forward, sweep it through the target, and keep swinging as you pull the trigger.
With any luck, your follow through will be good and a dove will be lying on the ground, making you one step closer to a limit in a year when those might be a little harder to come by.