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Shotgun Shooting Advice For Dove Hunters

Want to kill more birds? Follow these dove-hunting tips from Gun Nut and Shotguns columnist Phil Bourjaily.
shotguns dove hunting shooting tips
Photo by Dan Marsiglio

Mounting the gun
Make the first move with your front hand (a), starting the muzzle in the direction of the target. Sweep the muzzle toward the target and start raising the stock with your trigger hand (b). Instead of mounting, then swinging the gun, make the swing and mount one motion. You want your eyes on the dove. Lock your eyes on the target, keep your head still, and bring the stock to your face (c), not to your shoulder

Making the shot
Focus on the beak. As you move the gun to make the mount, keep the muzzle below the bird’s line of flight so the gun never obstructs your view of the dove. As long as your eyes are focused firmly on the target and your gun isn’t in the way, you’ll be able to see and react to the dove’s dips and jukes.

On long crossing shots, mount the gun ahead of the bird. Keep your eye on the dove, but insert the muzzle out in front. Match the bird’s speed, and trust your subconscious to find the right lead. Resist the temptation to look at the muzzle to measure lead. Remember, you’ve got a wide pattern spread to give you plenty of margin for error.

Comments (21)

Top Rated
All Comments
from woofbarkenarf wrote 4 years 29 weeks ago

I find that I have good days and bad days with regard to hit/miss ratios. The good days seem to just happen.(I'm shooting instinctively, and not thinking about it)The bad ones, well I may not have taken many birds home, but it was still an excellent hunt!

Have fun out there and you will take home some fine memories. Birds and hit/miss ratios are merely for bragging rights.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from deerboy wrote 4 years 27 weeks ago

good advice

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckeyeben wrote 4 years 25 weeks ago

this is my first year dove hunting and i really enjoy it and these were some helpful tips

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from fractured100 wrote 4 years 25 weeks ago

planning my first dove hunt this year with a friend and I'm always looking for good tips

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Kim wrote 4 years 22 weeks ago

I am 59 and haven't dove hunted since I was 18. Highly confident walking into the field only to be humiliated by the birds. Three boxes of shells anf one bird. It's back to basics for me and I'm sure these tips will help to bring back my old shooting form. Thanks

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from publiclandhunter78 wrote 4 years 16 weeks ago

September means its game time for me. It Starts With Doves. I Think im a good shotgunner, but sometimes the doves make me think different. But the key For Me Is to Just Focus On The Bird And Nothing Else And With the gun in motion squeeze the Shot off and 7 out of 10 I Will bag the bird. Part of the Fun Is Missing!! So Dont Get down If You Miss, That Make The Sport More Fun. I Recomend Steel Shot ## 7

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 4 years 12 weeks ago

A problem that occurs in dove hunting takes place when you can see the birds coming ahead of time. You mount the gun too soon, and then track the bird with the barrel now being susceptible to your eyes going to the barrel, and the barrel slowing, or stopping, and you shoot behind. Keep the gun down until you are ready to shoot then swing and mount keeping your eye on the bird as described in the article.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Eric Greene wrote 4 years 12 weeks ago

Practice at the gun club.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 4 years 11 weeks ago

Kim, I find timing is everything. From the time you start to swing the gun on the birds flight line, mount your gun to your cheek, and pull the trigger..it should be a constant. Not one quick shot, and then another where you track the bird with your barrel for a lengthy time, or a fast mount one time, and then a slower mount. The mount can't be too fast, or too slow. you need to have the barrel where you will pull the trigger long enough that your mind can make the subconscious decision to fire
and not be moving to fast into the lead picture creating more margin for error, and it can not be so slow that you shoot behind as well. I watch lots of video on top gunners shooting doves, and their speed of mount, and routine is the same every time. When they make the decision to shoot, they mount and fire the same way they did on the lst number of shots and never taking their hard focus off of the target.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ganderson wrote 3 years 48 weeks ago

Don't get discouraged when you miss and don't think to much. The only way you can get better is practice a lot.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from gordonfan5407 wrote 3 years 40 weeks ago

Dove are tough to hit because they sneak up on you and bob and weave. This is really good advice it should help you hit more dove.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from FSU70 wrote 3 years 35 weeks ago

I'm 63 and starting my fourth year in the Carolina Dove Club. Each year I have improved. The more you shoot the better you get. The writers advise is right on and you can't shoot enough clays. Dove shooting is all timing and keeping your eye on the bird ...... not the gun.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from RES1956 wrote 3 years 34 weeks ago

In theory, Phil's article is spot-on, but, if one has to think about following each step, the result will be dismal failure. Wingshooting is unconscious reaction and can best be learned on a sporting clay course or skeet field by either trial and error or with the help of an accomplished instructor. Let me suffice it to say that there is no better way to become better than to burn gunpowder and practice. Following are few simple tenants will also speed your success, Eyes on target, mount the gun to your face, and shoot. Resist at all cost the urge to 'aim', and never look at the barrel, only the bird. Your on-board computer is a lot better at putting the point of impact where it needs to be, trust it.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from FETTY wrote 3 years 33 weeks ago

good advice

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Docter Dove wrote 3 years 33 weeks ago

Are you having a hard time getting the proper lead on those birds? Here is a simple trick to get you where you want to be. Get 3=12ft cane poles and tape clay targets on the small end. Sharpen the big end .Now take them out and put them up in a triangle at what you think you maximan distance that you will be shooting is.Now as the birds fly by your stakes shoot the clays and note the distance the bird has flown since the time your clay broke. Now you have the approximate lead. You can adjust for closer shots. An old man taught me this now maybe this old man taught somebody something.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Docter Dove wrote 3 years 33 weeks ago

Keep your head down on the stock, we call it wood to wood. And I also do a bit better if I shoot a half a bird low to compinsate for jerking and flinching. Hell I'm so old I can't remember everything at once but between all of us one of us should harvest one.
Best of luck to all
Docter Dove

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Bass2Buck wrote 3 years 27 weeks ago

another all bird tip is lean slightly forward when your aiming. a guy named Mackey Hawkins told me this last year and it improved my shooting like crazy-trust me it works

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from footbasebl wrote 3 years 13 weeks ago

Good Advice. Look forward to using these ideas the next dove season.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from bernitheracer wrote 2 years 46 weeks ago

practice make perfect , well at least it make you better , on that may i suggest going to the range near your place and shoot a few rounds of skeet gun down , the american style skeet is usually shot gun mounted , but nothing says you must , call the bird with the but hips high , it is different but not realy more difficult (i always shoot gun down 20 or 12 gauge) you see the bird better , as is said in the article dont bother with the barrel when on your cheek everything as already line up , by the way at first your score will be lower , but what do you want impress friends with your score or kill more dove (it work for all birds by the way)

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from New Age Bubba wrote 2 years 32 weeks ago

This brief tip is great (actually an abreviated English style), but the average bird hunter would be much better off with a copy of the Orvis Wingshooting Guide and a flat of shells at the skeet range. With a cost under $100, an instructor an extra $50: result priceless!

Hunters may want to shoot "low gun" style at the skeet range.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Joe Moon wrote 2 years 8 weeks ago

Want to learn to "pass shoot" especially doves, as we say in South Texas, then First go spend at least once a week shooting a round or two of skeet for several months before dove season opens in your area. Second make sure your shotgun is fitted to you. Third take a few leasons on "pass shooting" from the expert instructors that most Trap and Skeet Ranges or Gun Clubs have to recommend. You will be amazed how these few simple things can improve the amount of doves you bring home. Now I know it is not about the amount of doves you bring home, but my Brittany really gets angry...frustrated with me after a few shots, and he doesn't have anything to retrieve...

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from Eric Greene wrote 4 years 12 weeks ago

Practice at the gun club.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from woofbarkenarf wrote 4 years 29 weeks ago

I find that I have good days and bad days with regard to hit/miss ratios. The good days seem to just happen.(I'm shooting instinctively, and not thinking about it)The bad ones, well I may not have taken many birds home, but it was still an excellent hunt!

Have fun out there and you will take home some fine memories. Birds and hit/miss ratios are merely for bragging rights.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckeyeben wrote 4 years 25 weeks ago

this is my first year dove hunting and i really enjoy it and these were some helpful tips

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from RES1956 wrote 3 years 34 weeks ago

In theory, Phil's article is spot-on, but, if one has to think about following each step, the result will be dismal failure. Wingshooting is unconscious reaction and can best be learned on a sporting clay course or skeet field by either trial and error or with the help of an accomplished instructor. Let me suffice it to say that there is no better way to become better than to burn gunpowder and practice. Following are few simple tenants will also speed your success, Eyes on target, mount the gun to your face, and shoot. Resist at all cost the urge to 'aim', and never look at the barrel, only the bird. Your on-board computer is a lot better at putting the point of impact where it needs to be, trust it.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Docter Dove wrote 3 years 33 weeks ago

Are you having a hard time getting the proper lead on those birds? Here is a simple trick to get you where you want to be. Get 3=12ft cane poles and tape clay targets on the small end. Sharpen the big end .Now take them out and put them up in a triangle at what you think you maximan distance that you will be shooting is.Now as the birds fly by your stakes shoot the clays and note the distance the bird has flown since the time your clay broke. Now you have the approximate lead. You can adjust for closer shots. An old man taught me this now maybe this old man taught somebody something.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Bass2Buck wrote 3 years 27 weeks ago

another all bird tip is lean slightly forward when your aiming. a guy named Mackey Hawkins told me this last year and it improved my shooting like crazy-trust me it works

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from New Age Bubba wrote 2 years 32 weeks ago

This brief tip is great (actually an abreviated English style), but the average bird hunter would be much better off with a copy of the Orvis Wingshooting Guide and a flat of shells at the skeet range. With a cost under $100, an instructor an extra $50: result priceless!

Hunters may want to shoot "low gun" style at the skeet range.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from deerboy wrote 4 years 27 weeks ago

good advice

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from fractured100 wrote 4 years 25 weeks ago

planning my first dove hunt this year with a friend and I'm always looking for good tips

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Kim wrote 4 years 22 weeks ago

I am 59 and haven't dove hunted since I was 18. Highly confident walking into the field only to be humiliated by the birds. Three boxes of shells anf one bird. It's back to basics for me and I'm sure these tips will help to bring back my old shooting form. Thanks

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from publiclandhunter78 wrote 4 years 16 weeks ago

September means its game time for me. It Starts With Doves. I Think im a good shotgunner, but sometimes the doves make me think different. But the key For Me Is to Just Focus On The Bird And Nothing Else And With the gun in motion squeeze the Shot off and 7 out of 10 I Will bag the bird. Part of the Fun Is Missing!! So Dont Get down If You Miss, That Make The Sport More Fun. I Recomend Steel Shot ## 7

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 4 years 12 weeks ago

A problem that occurs in dove hunting takes place when you can see the birds coming ahead of time. You mount the gun too soon, and then track the bird with the barrel now being susceptible to your eyes going to the barrel, and the barrel slowing, or stopping, and you shoot behind. Keep the gun down until you are ready to shoot then swing and mount keeping your eye on the bird as described in the article.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 4 years 11 weeks ago

Kim, I find timing is everything. From the time you start to swing the gun on the birds flight line, mount your gun to your cheek, and pull the trigger..it should be a constant. Not one quick shot, and then another where you track the bird with your barrel for a lengthy time, or a fast mount one time, and then a slower mount. The mount can't be too fast, or too slow. you need to have the barrel where you will pull the trigger long enough that your mind can make the subconscious decision to fire
and not be moving to fast into the lead picture creating more margin for error, and it can not be so slow that you shoot behind as well. I watch lots of video on top gunners shooting doves, and their speed of mount, and routine is the same every time. When they make the decision to shoot, they mount and fire the same way they did on the lst number of shots and never taking their hard focus off of the target.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ganderson wrote 3 years 48 weeks ago

Don't get discouraged when you miss and don't think to much. The only way you can get better is practice a lot.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from gordonfan5407 wrote 3 years 40 weeks ago

Dove are tough to hit because they sneak up on you and bob and weave. This is really good advice it should help you hit more dove.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from FSU70 wrote 3 years 35 weeks ago

I'm 63 and starting my fourth year in the Carolina Dove Club. Each year I have improved. The more you shoot the better you get. The writers advise is right on and you can't shoot enough clays. Dove shooting is all timing and keeping your eye on the bird ...... not the gun.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from FETTY wrote 3 years 33 weeks ago

good advice

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Docter Dove wrote 3 years 33 weeks ago

Keep your head down on the stock, we call it wood to wood. And I also do a bit better if I shoot a half a bird low to compinsate for jerking and flinching. Hell I'm so old I can't remember everything at once but between all of us one of us should harvest one.
Best of luck to all
Docter Dove

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from footbasebl wrote 3 years 13 weeks ago

Good Advice. Look forward to using these ideas the next dove season.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from bernitheracer wrote 2 years 46 weeks ago

practice make perfect , well at least it make you better , on that may i suggest going to the range near your place and shoot a few rounds of skeet gun down , the american style skeet is usually shot gun mounted , but nothing says you must , call the bird with the but hips high , it is different but not realy more difficult (i always shoot gun down 20 or 12 gauge) you see the bird better , as is said in the article dont bother with the barrel when on your cheek everything as already line up , by the way at first your score will be lower , but what do you want impress friends with your score or kill more dove (it work for all birds by the way)

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Joe Moon wrote 2 years 8 weeks ago

Want to learn to "pass shoot" especially doves, as we say in South Texas, then First go spend at least once a week shooting a round or two of skeet for several months before dove season opens in your area. Second make sure your shotgun is fitted to you. Third take a few leasons on "pass shooting" from the expert instructors that most Trap and Skeet Ranges or Gun Clubs have to recommend. You will be amazed how these few simple things can improve the amount of doves you bring home. Now I know it is not about the amount of doves you bring home, but my Brittany really gets angry...frustrated with me after a few shots, and he doesn't have anything to retrieve...

0 Good Comment? | | Report

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