Lessons from My First Dove Hunt(s)

Only a fool believes one can't miss when using a shotgun loaded with birdshot.

Hunting season is underway and a close friend talked me into going dove hunting for my first time. And my second. And my third. And let’s just say I went out several times this season for my first time.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. But I picked up a migratory bird endorsement along with my hunting license this year, dusted off the old Remington 870, went out to give it a try and learned a few things.

First thing I learned was that it’s a lot harder to hit a dove than what I used to think. I’ve heard several people mention that it’s easy to hit a target using a shotgun loaded with birdshot and I suppose I probably thought there was some truth to it. However, I already knew (from lessons learned from shooting IDPA matches) that hitting a moving target was difficult. What I didn’t know is how much harder it is to hit a moving target that doesn’t move in a predictable manner. Doves are fast, but can alter their speed quickly. Doves also change direction quickly and unpredictably. As soon as the shotgun comes up and I thought I had a correct lead, the darn things would change direction as soon as I decided to pull the trigger. Bottom line is I missed. A lot.

Just like deer hunting, every hunt was different. I saw several flocks of doves flying on some hunts. Other times, the doves would just be grounded in the field and would only stir up when disturbed. Sometimes, they were no where to be found. This made it difficult to decide whether to stay stationary and hidden until doves flew overhead, or to comb the fields in an attempt to disturb them.

Many hunters seem to have very strong opinions about shot size. One friend I went hunting with said I’d never hit anything with 6 shot because the the additional space between the larger (but fewer) shots would be bigger than the target and I should only use 7.5 shot. Turns out I missed a lot with all kinds of bird shot anyway and harvested some dove with all kinds of bird shot too. I honestly didn’t notice much of a difference. Larger shot didn’t pulverize dove like I was lead to believe either.

It was interesting to learn that doves didn’t generally drop dead when hit. Most of the dove hit (by me or my companions) generally fell and required some dispatching after retrieval. The dispatching was done by swiftly pulling and twisting the head around in a full circle. I also learned that it doesn’t take much force to completely remove a dove’s head when dispatching them.

Bacon-wrapped dove poppers are amazing. Cut a hatch chile long ways and take the seeds out. Fill the center of the half chile with cream cheese. Place one or two dove breasts on top of the cream cheese and wrap it in bacon slices. Cook it over a medium temperature on the grill (or bake it in the oven) until the dove breast and bacon is fully cooked. Enjoy!

Overall, it reminded me a quite a bit of my first deer hunt. The experience is very grounding and made me feel very connected to nature as an active participant. Like other hunting activities, it requires work, preparation, patience, skill, and a dash of luck. I didn’t enjoy it as much as I enjoy deer hunting. As such, I probably won’t do a lot more to gear up for the next one, but I will gladly join my friends again (if I’m invited again).

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