Dove Hunting photo

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I once asked a friend in the industry why gun makers gun makers don’t offer “dove specials” if dove hunting is so popular.

“There is a dove special,” he said. “It’s called the 20-gauge Remington 1100.”

The 20 gauge is the classic choice for doves, and I would almost bet more doves have been shot in the United States with 20-gauge 1100s than any other gun. They are heavy enough — mine weighs seven and a half pounds — to swing smoothly and recoil mildly, and the 1100 gas system is among the very softest-kicking.

While 1100s need to be cleaned more often than, say, the Berettas and Benellis that rule the high volume dove fields of Argentina, a properly maintained 1100 can easily see you through a 15 bird limit here at home without malfunction. The guns seem to fit a wide range of people well, also. (I am the outlier. I have a 20-gauge 1100. I can’t hit a thing with it. I bring 12 gauges I can shoot to the dove field.)

Also, 7/8 ounce of lead can kill doves to quite a distance. On my one South American dove hunt, we shot high, challenging doves one very windy afternoon with 20 gauge Fiocchi ammunition and had no trouble killing the ones we could hit. Switching to steel shortens the range a little but even that is enough for birds at reasonable range.

My friend in the picture brought his 20-gauge 1100 to the dove field the other day. I had downplayed expectations because I knew the public area had been hammered the previous day and in the morning before our afternoon shoot. That may explain why Peter only brought one box of shells. To my surprise, we were swarmed by doves. After a while Peter walked over to where I was sitting.

“I’m going to take a break,” he said.

“Why? The doves are flying,” I said.

“I only have four shells left.”

I was shooting a 12 and couldn’t loan him any ammo.

“Tell you what,” I said. “Go back to your spot, load one shell at a time, make those four shots count, then we’ll take turns with my gun.”

He shot four doves (loading one shell at a time does make you focus), then we traded my 12 back and forth until we both had our limits.

Moral of the story: The 20 gauge is enough gun for doves, but only if you bring enough ammo for it.