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For The Dove Hunting Newbie

If you are new to dove hunting and need to know exactly what it is that you will absolutely need to take to the field to be successful, you are reading the right article. Below we will describe the necessities and then lay out some of the nice to have items.

What Is Absolutely Necessary

  1. A reliable shotgun that does not have any known issues. Don’t let your friends or anyone else convince you that it is acceptable to bring along a gun that you can’t trust. Unless you are hunting for free, each missed opportunity to shoot is costing you money.
     
    Good bird guns do not have to cost a fortune. Pump shotguns, over and unders and semi-automatics are all equally effective. The difference is not in the cycle time or capacity of the gun. The differences are made through practice and familiarity with the gun’s operation. Personal preference will play into the decision as well.
     
    The gauge of the shotgun will be influenced by your personal preference as well. While I am a die-hard 12 gauge fan, my dad shoots just as well with a 20 gauge semi-automatic and swears by it. The best way to determine the differences in how you shoot with each type of gun is to go and shoot with them at the local shooting range. Don’t let the smaller gauge fool you. I have been punished many times by a lightweight 20 gauge that didn’t fit me very well. The fit of the gun to your body will play an important part in how well you like to shoot with it.
     
  2. Camouflage is an important element for success. If you can’t blend in with a dove’s environment you are dramatically reducing your chances of pulling birds to within shooting range. Birds have a distinct advantage over a hunter on the ground because of the higher vantage point. Camouflage clothing is usually reasonably priced and is very effective. Camo-patterned cloth can also be used to create field blinds but care has to be taken to break up any hard edges or square corners.
     
  3. Quality ammunition is also a necessity in the field. Again, any missed opportunities due to jamming, misfires or heavy fouling can wipe the smile right off your face and turn a good hunt into one of the most frustrating events on record. Also, just because you buy name brand ammunition does not guarantee that your gun will like it. Manufacturers have different tolerances that can make a difference in the way a gun ejects the spent rounds. Make sure to run several boxes of shells through your gun to make sure the two are compatible.

    One question that is asked over and over is what shot size and chokes work best.  There are several different answers depending on the conditions.  The most commonly used shot size is a toss up between 7 1/2 and 8.  These sizes provide a large amount of shot flying through the air and are light enough to not make total swiss cheese out of the birds at shorter distances.  Chokes are a whole subject in themselves but, for this application a modified or improved cylinder choke will work just fine.  Modified chokes will normally work well for general shooting.  Improved cylinder chokes will increase the pattern size of the shot at a faster rate.  This works well for closer shooting and for those of us that need a wider net to hit medium range birds.  When in doubt, use a modified choke and pull very tight beads on the beaks of crossing birds.  If nature cooperates, you should have a nice pile of them at the end of the day.

Nice To Have Items

  1. Decoys. Depending on the conditions of the hunt, modern dove decoys are a great way to attract dove into the area. There are static decoys as well as wind and battery powered motion decoys that can aid in attracting dove from long distances.
     
  2. Comfortable Seat. There are many different items that come to mind but, one of my favorites is the bucket. The padded ball bearing seat makes it easy to rotate and swivel to quickly acquire your target. It can also keep your ammunition dry as well as carry refreshments. The covers come in a variety of patterns and colors to fit your particular area.
     
  3. Retriever. An argument can be made that the retriever is usually a dog but, a hunting partner or non-hunting companion will work just as well. Just a quick note, the dog usually complains less, responds more readily to commands, can sit still for long periods of time and they don’t have to take 15 bathroom breaks in a three hour timeframe (dogs don’t usually drink a pot of coffee before setting out for the fields).
     
  4. Bird Vest. Usually is a very light weight garment with plenty of places for extra ammunition. The backs usually have large pouches to carry your birds. Also makes great place to toss spent shells when cleaning up for the day.
     
  5. Shell Bag. A nice shell bag will cost you a little more but, you do get what you pay for in this area. A nice bag can also carry choke tubes, field tools, ammo, first aid kits and anything else you might need. It will also be able to keep all these things dry and clean (this is especially important for choke tubes). Get a cheap one and you may end up disappointed in the durability or performance.

Just to make sure the message is clear, what is absolutely necessary are guns, camo and ammo. Anything else you may need is for comfort or convenience.

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