Good to eat, year-round seasons, limitless bag limits, the Eurasian collared-dove takes the edge off the days before the fall
The off-season: that dreaded long span of months between the end of last season and the new season to come. What is an upland hunter to do on the off-season?
Sure. There is spring turkey hunting and even summer bass fishing, but how does a self-respecting and dedicated upland hunter, like you, get his or her wing shooting fix? Enter the Eurasian collared-dove (Streptopelia decaocto).
Eurasians are a medium-sized dove, larger than a mourning dove, but smaller than a Wood Pigeon. They measure roughly 11-13 inches from beak to tail, with a wingspan of about 20 inches. They can also be identified by their black beaks, red-colored eyes, and feet. Plumage can vary from a creamy-white to slight gray/white coloration with a black bar across the back of their necks. Unlike mourning dove, they have a long squared-off tail that makes them easily identifiable in flight. A well-fed Eurasian can weigh in as much as 9 ounces. The mourning dove is known for its melodic and mournful, cooing. The song of Eurasians is not as pleasing to the ear, however. To me, it sounds like someone stuck a kazoo in a sock and is blowing through it! I am not even joking.
The invasive Eurasian collared-dove
The Eurasian collared-dove is believed to have originated in Asia, spreading quickly during the early 1900’s through much of Europe. By the 1970’s, a small flock of captive Eurasian-collared dove escaped (or were released) from the Bahamas and made their way into Florida. Spreading quickly through the South-Eastern United States in the 1990’s, and by the 2000’s, the Eurasian collared-dove “invasion” had reached the west coast. Today, Eurasians can be found in almost every state in the United States, with exception to much of the north-eastern part of the country. They also call parts of Canada and Mexico home and are quickly spreading in those countries as well. They are one of the most successful modern “colonizing” species of birds ever.
As a non-native species, there are, naturally, concerns that these bigger Eurasians might aggressively displace native species of doves and other game birds. Data has not proven that this is a factor just yet, however.
This “Invasive” status turns out to be a great thing… because it means you can hunt Eurasians with little to no limitations in most states. So, go grab your shotgun from the closet and read on!
Where to find Eurasian collared-dove
Much like domestic pigeons, Eurasian collared-dove can be found near human dwellings. Suburbs, farms, and agricultural areas likely have had a big contribution to the successful colonization of the Eurasian collared-dove in North America. They are often found in suburban areas where they can easily plunder fruit trees and bird feeders. They are most prolific in areas where there is waste grain and steady food sources like nut trees and fruit. Think orchards, farms, and dairies.
Bust out your county maps and your onX Hunt Maps app and start looking at the edges of these properties where you can legally shoot. It is also not a bad idea to politely knock on some doors and smile big! In areas where the winters are not as cold, Eurasian collared-dove will breed all year long. These birds may be a nuisance to people who rely on their crops as a livelihood so most would happily allow you to safely shoot these invaders on their property. It’s worth a shot to ask.
An accelerated course on how to hunt Eurasian collared-dove
Hunting Eurasian collared-dove is much like hunting any other dove species. Optimal dove hunting is right at sun-up and right before sun-down. Get out and identify the “flyways” and food sources early before your setup and just like preparing for mourning dove hunting in September, if you can do this a day or two before you hunt, the better your odds will be.
I find that Eurasians respond well to decoys. There are not many Eurasian collared-dove-specific decoys on the market today, but pigeon and mourning dove decoys work just fine. I would also recommend one of those motorized Mojo decoys, it really gets the Eurasians going!
Like most other types of dove, Eurasians can be wary when it comes to direct contact with humans, especially after you have thrown some shot at them. I recommend leaving the blaze-orange at home since you will likely be getting your best shooting opportunities through pass-shooting (I often will ‘walk-up’ on treed dove, however, but that’s a story for another day). Since you are trying to get these doves to fly within an optimal shooting range, I would recommend wearing a little camo to help you blend in. You may want to also consider a portable blind to mask your movement and position. And don’t be scared to rotate locations.
I personally recommend a 12- or 20-gauge dove shotgun (pump or auto, preferably) for Eurasian duty. Eurasian collared-dove can, and will, provide high-volume shooting and these gauges are cheaply and readily available in bulk. I have knocked down Eurasians with #8 and #7 steel and lead pellets plenty of times, but I prefer to use #6 and even #5 (1 – 1/16 oz) Bismuth loads. That is my personal preference.
In many states, like California for instance, Eurasians are considered to be an invasive and “non-game” bird species, which means certain rules do not apply to them. Typically, there are no set bag limits or shell plugs/limiters required (remember that pump/auto preference?). Be sure to check your local/state hunting regulations for specific limitations and requirements.
How do they taste? Just like any other dove! The breast of Eurasians is nearly double in size when compared to a mourning dove, however. That just means more dove poppers on the grill.
Jorge Ramirez is a writer, artist, and upland hunter who was born and raised in Southern California. His passion for upland hunting led to the creation of his blog/website, UplandJitsu: The Art of Upland Hunting. His blog primarily consists of articles dedicated to the traditions of quail hunting with an emphasis on introducing new hunters to DIY public land hunts, without a dog. He currently resides in Long Beach and hunts in the nearby National Forests for upland game.