Instead of sitting and waiting try walking up doves on slow days
Dove season. You’re sitting there, twiddling your thumbs. The little grey rockets have not presented a shot since early that morning, but you’re determined to put a few more in the bag. Waiting. Sitting. I mean, is there a law saying you have to sit here?
Look, I’m gonna run something by you. It’s a little weird, but hear me out. Let’s try something different. Let me ask you a question: rather than waiting for pass-shooting opportunities, have you ever walked up on doves? Walk-up. Jump-shoot. Kick-up. Flush. Whatever you call it, sometimes the traditional pass-shooting method isn’t going to cut it and walking-up on those doves is going to prove to be a lot more effective. When it gets slow out in the field, nothing gets birds in the air more effectively than some brush kicking!
Stretch your legs and hunt!
So, you know there are doves in the field. You can hear them and you can probably even see them way off, feeding or lounging in the trees. If it is a particularly warm day, birds will slow down by mid-day to avoid the sun, causing a lull in the action. Hunter pressure can also keep birds from taking flight; this is especially true in busier, crowded dove fields. Heck, you may have been moving around a little too much or maybe didn’t do such a great job blending in and spooked all the doves! Now they’re hanging back, giving you that Mutombo finger-wag. Whatever the reason, this is the perfect opportunity to do some proactive hunting.
If you decide to stretch your legs and try out this non-traditional method of dove hunting, I suggest that you pack a blaze orange hat in your dove vest (it can be easily removed and swapped out later if needed). Public dove fields can be crowded, and many hunters may not be expecting someone to be walking around. I tend to avoid areas where there are tons of people anyways, but it’s always best to practice caution and a blaze orange article just lets people know you are there.
Walking-up on doves is basically the same method you would use to hunt traditional upland game, such as quail or ring-necked pheasant. Doves are more cooperative in the sense that they do a lot less running and more flying, however. Doves will often feed on the ground of freshly cut crop fields, so keep your eye on these areas and hunt them thoroughly. Be ready to shoot! A dove can pick up speed quickly and will present a challenging target, even when taking off from the ground.
Tree lines, as well as fence lines, are the perfect spots to kick up doves. These edges, especially near feeding or watering areas, tend to hold doves. Pay extra attention to dead trees or bushes, which they are especially fond of.
Walking along telephone poles and lines are also a great way to bump doves. I will often follow along these in hopes of kicking a few up or in extra-lucky scenarios, I will have one or two fly in just over my head trying to land on the lines.
Be vigilant. Keep an eye out for far-flying doves and watch where they land and congregate. From there you can make a beeline to their location. Once you get there it’s just a matter of the bird getting into the air. Many a dove will spook before you’re within 20 yards, so be ready to take a shot if you can.
Lace up you boots! Be prepared to walk, and then walk some more. The more ground you cover, the better.
A Hybrid Approach
I will often take a hybrid approach when hunting doves. I’ll sit or stand, waiting for passing shots, but will often get up and walk around to help reinvigorate the doves in between sitting. If you’re like me, you can’t sit still for too long. I am admittedly impatient when it comes to sitting around and the quail hunter in me wants to walk-up on birds! This hybrid approach of pass-shooting and walking up styles is a great way to move around and reposition to new areas, keeping things lively.
I also find that multiple hunters working together can be advantageous. If you are in a party of hunters, my recommendation is to utilize “sitters” and “walkers.” Have some of your buddies sit on the tree lines of well-known flyways, while others walk out and “stir the pot.” This will get doves in the air, giving your buddies that are sitting some pass-shooting opportunities, while the guys pushing through the fields will get some jump-shooting opportunities! This method takes careful planning and awareness of your surroundings by all participants. Shoot in safe directions and don’t forget that blaze orange.
Walking up on doves is a great way to liven up a slow day in the dove fields. Nothing is more exciting to me than having my shotgun at the ready, awaiting that burst of wings and feathers. Give it a try. You just might start to prefer walking ‘em up.
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.