dove hunting
Dove season is only six weeks away. Here's how to get ready.. Phil Bourjaily

It is six weeks until dove season – less, actually if you check the calendar. Time to get ready. This post is as much a reminder for me as it is for the rest of you.* In the sticky heat of July it’s hard to believe hunting season is right around the corner, but it’s coming, whether we’re ready for it or not. I, for one, am not as prepared as I should be.

Here’s my readiness update you can use as a checklist:

New dove gun(s) because we always need a reason for more. I have a pair of new (to me) 20 gauge dove guns to fool with this year, a Beretta 390 and an older 870 Express.

Maintenance. My new guns are clean and I know they work because I have cleaned them and taken them to the range once. That puts me ahead of 60-70% of the people I’ll run into in the public sunflower fields, but it’s a pretty low standard.

Legality. The 870 needs a plug. You don’t want to be without one at a WMA on opening day because you’re going to get checked. I have one on order. Once in, it’s never coming out. Where is your plug? Update: mine just arrived and will go in the gun shortly, never to see the light of day again.
Patterning Both guns need to be patterned, and a suitable supply of ammunition laid in. I will begin my experiments with Improved Cylinder chokes and steel 7s in both guns, although I may go tighter and/or shoot 7/8 ounce of lead 8s. I anticipate losing 5 or more yards of effective range as I step down from 12s to 20s.

Practice. This is the most important point. Various complications have cut into my shooting time this summer but there is still time between now and Opening Day to get on target. Low gun skeet is the best, most efficient practice for dove hunting. Sporting clays is just as good, although it takes longer, costs more, and doesn’t offer any more dovelike targets than does a round of skeet, except for high overhead shots. Trap is much better than nothing, but not as good for dove shooting practice as skeet and sporting clays, which present more crossing targets.

Gear. My dove gear, such as it – two Mojos and surveyor’s tape to leave as marks when I’m looking for downed birds – stays in the same pack I use during the season. All I need to do is add fresh batteries, water and granola bars. I know where my dove chair is.

Scouting. Sunflower fields are up and blooming by now. It’s time to start looking around, and maybe trying to find a new area that won’t get the traffic of the more popular spots. I have, of course, done nothing, although my sources tell me the crop looks good this year. Most likely I will rely on hearsay, rumor, and innuendo to find an Opening Day spot, and, if that goes as well as it did last year, be a little disappointed. The real scouting and real hunting begins after that as we start looking for cut cornfields.

*This post was requested by Springerman3, so I am including a picture of him in the dove field. I do take requests.