Dove hunting basics: Apply the right ingredients for a successful dove hunt.

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This weekend I will have Chuck Ellingson from the Watson Hunting Camp on to talk about dove hunting.   What you need have when scouting a location, when to set up, etc.

I took it a step further and went on a hunt with him Wednesday afternoon and was able to see it firsthand.

This was the first time I’ve dove hunted over decoys and it was everything it lived up to be.  The doves are fast and you’ll blow through a lot of shells during a hunt.  People in Minnesota haven’t taken up the sport as much as other states in the country, but that is probably due to a couple of factors:

1) It’s still relatively new, as the season started 10 years ago.  That doesn’t give it time to have the tradition that deer or waterfowl might have.

2) To find the high numbers needed for a fun dove hunt, you need to be in the right agriculturally-rich area, primarily in the western farm country.

That’s where I’m living so we took off with our two labs, Mika and Morgan, and headed for ingredient number one: a wheat field.

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Two fields had been scouted and both held large numbers of doves.  When we arrived at the first field, you could see flocks of doves working around the edges and bombing into fill up on grain.  We each set up at a round bale, with a spinning-wing dove decoy and a 3-dove feeding contraption.  The 3 doves would spin together in a half circle, then stop.  That would cause each dove to spin independently of the others, giving a life-like feeding scenario.

Soon single doves and pairs would come into the decoys and it wasn’t long before my 12 gauge was shouldered a shots were fired.  That dove dipped and dove like an airborne ninja and laughed at me all the way across the field, where he safely dropped down for dinner.   A second dove would come 10 minutes later and again I whiffed.  Finally another dove came from behind and I spun around the bale and gave this darting bird a good lead and follow through.  BANG!  He spun down to the ground like a plane that lost a wing.  We were on the board and Mika had her first dove retrieve.

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After a few birds worked and were dropped, things slowed a bit and we decided to move.  Wheat field number two was located and I quickly noticed ingredient number two nearby: trees for roosting.  A couple of doves escaped from the branches as we drove by and visions of a filled limit were dancing in my head.

I set up on the south side of the field, inside a ditch that laid between the harvested wheat field and a standing cornfield.  Ellingson moved to the west side along another standing cornfield and we waited for the birds to come.   And waited.  And waited.  I began to think we made the wrong decision.

Soon a dove literally buzzed right over my head.  I never saw it coming and he zoomed out of sight before my gun ever came up.  Two more doves would make an appearance, one surprising me again and one that got away clean despite the three gobs of pellets I flung at it.

For the next hour, I’d have doves come near but not in my face like the first two.  I learned something about dove hunting that I didn’t know:  They give you one pass.  They might not be close, but if they’re in range, you have to take the shot.  Ducks will give you a few passes, geese you’re lucky if it gets to three, doves give you one.  Scan the skies and get ready to pull the trigger!

While I’m struggling on the south edge of this field, Chuck is unloading his gun every 15 minutes.  Finally I pack up and move over to sit next to him.  Soon we’re shooting the right and left bird of doubles that come in and taking turns on the singles.  Once the daylight fades, the birds head off to roost and we pack up for the day, counting up our birds.  24 total, just 6 short of our limit.  Had we made the move to this field sooner and set up next to each other, there’s no doubt that we’d limited out.  That’s how hunting goes and it’s always easy to second guess.

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Both these fields had the right ingredients, including #3: Water nearby.  The birds need to drink!  They’re eating all day and flying around in this heat, they’ll want something to wash it down with.   Find those ingredients and get ready to pull the trigger!

Watson Hunting Camp offers guided dove hunts for those interested in getting out before the birds head south, you can contact them at 320-269-9136 or

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