The Midday Dove Hunt

dove hunt
Hunting doves during the middle of the day is a great way to avoid the crowds.Sheppard Air Force Base

Opening Day of dove season was great, thank you for asking, and I hope yours was, too. Mine was made better by sleeping in, which I highly recommend as a tactic for hunting public areas.

I do not sleep well the night before dove season opens—it’s like Christmas Eve—but I make myself stay in bed. My plan is to outwait the crowds. I get up at a normal hour, walk the dog, check e-mails, gather up my stuff and get to the field at, oh, the crack of 11:00 a.m. By that time, the arguments, the rains of pellets, the unruly retrievers charging all over the field, the need to root for a dove to successfully run the gauntlet so you can shoot it … all that is over. The midday shift has the advantage of solitude.

I arrived at 11:20 this year and for the next few hours I had the place to myself, tucked into a nook in the sunflowers that had been cleared by some early-morning hunter.

The disadvantage to midday hunting is that it’s slow. You may feel differently, but I have come to think of this as a feature, not a glitch. The midday hunt is pleasant and leisurely. About every 20, maybe 30 minutes, you get a shot. That’s not much excitement, but it’s enough to keep me out hunting for hours. If you put in your time, you will go home with birds, maybe even a limit. Dove hunting is supposed to be a social sport, but sitting in a field by yourself is relaxing, even soothing. You can’t spend the time looking at your phone, or doves get by you. You have to sit and do nothing but watch the sky.

There is a catch. For this to work, you have to shoot straight, because you won’t get many chances. Friday I shot at 18 doves in four hours and killed 15 of them, which is about as well as I’ve ever done. It’s not a coincidence that I had shot a round of sporting clays—not particularly well—the night before.

After you have dealt with targets that fall, curl, bounce, arc and rocket skyward, doves are pretty simple, especially if there are no other hunters in the field to frighten them into flying at full speed.