Check the calendar if you haven’t already. It is just a few days until dove hunting season opens. That is on Saturday, Sept. 5.
Are you ready?
Sure, you’ve got the shotgun and checked it over. You’ve put in a supply of field load shells in No. 7 ½, No. 8, No. 9, whatever your favorite load. You have a license and you have HIP (Harvest Information Program) registered. You’ve got the camo clothes, and T-shirt is sensible in early September, long-sleeved or short-sleeved. You’ve got a place to hunt.
Now spend some time to increase your chances of success. Spend some time on that place you will hunt. Go out with a pair of binoculars, preferably early in the morning or late in the afternoon. Just sit and watch. Make mental notes.
What you are looking for, of course, are doves.
You want to know where they are coming from and where they are going. If you have a cutover grain field to hunt, that’s good, but it helps to see the birds coming in to feed. Are they arriving from the east, west, north or south? Are they stopping for a while on some power lines on the edge of the field?
Little things can shift the odds in your favor.
Your dove field may have a line of trees on one or more sides. Find the direction the doves are coming form then check that tree line. Is there a gap or a low place? Doves tend to use these open spots as travel routes rather than soar up and over some tall trees.
Scan the field itself. If you see doves fly in and begin looking for food, that’s a good sign. Keep in mind the connection of "doves" and "open." Doves like to feed in the open and on ground that is bare or close to bare. You aren’t likely to see them fly into a clump of tall weeds in a field. You aren’t apt to see them come down close to a fence row. But that fence row could be within shotgun range of where they do land, meaning a possible hunting spot for you.
If there is a lone tree in or on the edge of your hunting field, pay attention to it. A tree away from other trees is a potential stopping point for incoming doves as well as a resting spot after they have fed for a while.
It is not an absolute rule, but some experienced dove hunters pay close attention to field corners, believing the birds tend to come in on the corners instead of long open sides of a field.
Whether your dove hunting field is flat or sloped seems to make little difference. But what can be a factor are humps or low places in that field. If there is a noticeable high spot, doves may come to it first instead of landing in a low spot.
Through all of your scouting of the dove field, keep in mind that one dove does not make a pattern. Two doves may not either. But several doves over a period of time may well be an indicator. One dove comes in now. Two more arrive five minutes later. One more dove arrives a few minutes after that. OK, you’ve got something to put into your game plan.
When you have probable directions figured out, look for places to put some decoys, if you use them.
Not all dove hunters use decoys, and some swear they are not a favorable addition to a hunt. Decoy-using hunters, though, say only a few are needed, not a dozen or several dozen as in duck hunting and certainly not the large decoy spreads used for goose hunting.
If there is a small pond around, that’s a likely spot for a couple of decoys. Just set them up at the water’s edge. An open fence is another decoy spot. This means a fence without tall grass in or under it. A bush out by itself? Good spot for dove decoys.
Caution: Canada goose season will be open statewide in Arkansas when dove hunting starts on Sept. 5. Sure, you can try for a double dip. But don’t do it at the same time. You can’t have lead shot with you when goose hunting, which requires steel or another type of non-lead shot. Get all the lead shot out of your pockets, carryall bags and stool pockets before you go after geese.
(Log Cabin outdoor writer Joe Mosby can be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.)