Prepping for the Biggest Dove Hunt in America
DID YOU KNOW THAT 30 PERCENT of all of the doves bagged in America are taken in Texas?
Annually, close to 400,000 Texas hunters take to the field and bag somewhere in the neighborhood of five million doves. With the mourning dove population alone exceeding 30 million, this state is unlike any other in terms of hunting these sporting birds.
Yes, we said “mourning doves alone.” According to the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) seven species of doves and pigeons are indigenous to Texas. Of these, only three (mourning dove, white-winged dove, and white-tipped dove) are currently hunted.
“Two species (red-billed pigeon and band-tailed pigeon) are currently listed as legal game birds by federal and state regulations, but are not hunted in Texas due to limited numbers and distribution,” officials said. “Two other species (Inca dove and common ground-dove) are sparrow-sized birds with no potential for hunting and for which no formal management actions are undertaken.”
By the time you read this article we will be 60 days or fewer from the September 1 dove opener, so we thought we would give you the low-down on how to prep for dove season and make this year your most successful ever.
Practice Makes Perfect
Baseball players practice. Football players practice. Heck, even professional bass fishermen practice, so why should dove hunters wait until opening day to shoot?
Three popular shooting sports are available to hunters year-round at relatively little cost. Pursuing them can help hunters have maximum impact in the field. These are trap, skeet and sporting clays.
Trap focuses on shooting at targets rising and going away at various angles while skeet is more about crossing targets as well as two targets at a time. Sporting clays is more involved. It is set up sort of like a golf course with various positions and situations to challenge the shooter.
All three sports are seeing increased interest. However, sporting clays alone has grown to the point the National Sporting Clays Association has more than 22,000 members and 600 member clubs.
“Practicing in the off-season is crucial, and in Texas there are many places hunters can shoot any of the three styles,” said CZ Pro Dave Miller.
Miller set a Guinness World Record for the most sporting clay targets shot in one hour-an amazing 3,653 clays in May of 2015, followed by winning the Missouri State Sporting Clays Championship in July 2015.
He recommends hunters who decide to take up off-season shooting get a gun that will give them many options and can also be used hunting. That gun is the CZ All-American Trap Combo.
It ships with two-barrel sets. One is a single-shot ‘un-single’ with a dial-adjustable aluminum rib (adjustable from 50/50 up to 90/10 point of impact), the other a standard set of barrels with stepped rib (50/50 point of impact).
Barrel length for both sets is 32 inches, with lengthened forcing cones and ports to reduce perceived recoil. A set of extended, knurled chokes give a wide variety of constriction options.
“It’s a versatile gun and perfect for getting serious about shooting,” Miller said.
Miller said connecting with other shooters is easier than ever and it makes things much more interesting. Hunters can contact local gun ranges or seek out other interested shooters on the Internet where shooters gather to talk their favorite pastime.
“The serious dove hunter will do their best to invest in learning how to make the most of their opportunities and become a better shooter,” Miller said.
WHITEWINGS ARE ON THE RISE and Eurasian-collared doves may end up in the bag, but for the most part Texas dove hunting is about the mourning dove.
According to TPWD, mourning Doves (Zenaida macroura) are found in all counties of the Texas Panhandle, in every month of the year, and are an important migratory upland game bird. Resident populations occur year-round in our area.
“Cold fronts often move doves from the central United States southward into the Texas Panhandle and temporarily increase populations during late August, September, and early October; however, periods of wet weather often force doves southward out of the Texas Panhandle. A segment of the mourning dove population migrates south during the winter into south Texas, Mexico, and Central America.”
“Mourning doves are our most slender dove, with a long pointed tail, and fairly narrow pointed wings held close while flapping; however, on takeoff they produce a light airy whistling on takeoff. Song of a mourning dove is a mournful hooting ooAAh cooo cooo coo, often mistaken for an owl.”
Vision and Timing
Even during practice shooting sessions hunters should keep in mind what they will encounter in the field and how they can make the most of it.
Miller said one-thing hunters and shooters overlook is vision. “It’s the most important factor. If you can’t see you can’t shoot,” he said.
This needs to get cleared up well before the season. This can be fixed simply by getting a vision examination and buying prescription field glasses if the doves are starting to look a little fuzzy.
Fishgame.com blogger and dedicated dove hunter Shane Smith said hunters need to be where the doves are when the doves are there. “Doves will typically go to drink water fairly early in the morning and again before they roost,” he said. “The places they like to water are free of weeds or tall grasses on the bank. Doves like a smooth or sandy bank that gives them security and an easier path to drink.”
Smith said the best times to hunt doves typically are the first three hours of daylight and the last three hours of daylight. It is normally very hot during the midday, and the birds are resting in trees and are relatively inactive.
“The best areas to kill doves are funnel points in the area that you have chosen. Doves will typically have a few entrance points and exit points. Pay close attention to find these flight funnels and get there as soon as you have established a flight pattern,” Smith said.
Common Sense Tips
Miller recommends hunters stay focused on a single bird. Sometimes you’ll encounter dozens or perhaps hundreds so keeping your eye on one bird really can make the difference.
Shane Smith recommends hunters take reasonable shots. “It is easy to want to shoot at every bird within 50 yards. However, your chances of killing a dove at that range are minimal at best. Try to find an area where the birds will be within 35 yards, and you have just greatly increased your odds,” he said.
And finally, don’t be over-gunned.
You certainly don’t need a .10 gauge to hunt doves.
A .12 will work and a 20 will get the job done as well. If you are comfortable with what you are shooting and follow these tips, you will be well on your way to dove hunting success in Texas.
The All-American Trap Combo from CZ
BUILT SPECIFICALLY FOR ATA SHOOTERS who compete in trap singles as well as doubles and want one gun to do it all, the All-American Trap Combo is the tool for the game and for dove hunters wanting to improve their skills.
It ships with two-barrel sets—one a single-shot “un-single” with a dial-adjustable aluminum rib (adjustable from 50/50 up to 90/10 point of impact), the other a standard set of barrels with stepped rib (50/50 point of impact).
CZ’s All-American Trap Combo ships with two barrel sets.
Barrel length for both sets is 32 inches, with lengthened forcing cones and ports to reduce perceived recoil. A set of extended, knurled chokes with the Rem-Choke thread pattern give a wide variety of constriction options (Cyl, Improved Cylinder, Modified, Full and extra Full.
To ward off corrosion, the CNC-milled action is surface hardened, resulting in a beautiful white metal finish that resembles brushed stainless. The inner workings resemble those on shotguns much higher in price, with firing pins that ride in bushings and drop-in parts for once the round count starts to climb. Intended to be used heavily by the regular competitor, multiple sizes of locking blocks are available and hinge pins are replaceable, making it easy to freshen the gun up after heavy use.
The barrels are not selectable, instead always firing bottom barrel first. It has a reliable mechanical trigger and manual safety, so that the gun does exactly what you want it to when you tell it to do it.
With a parallel adjustable comb, healthy right-hand palm swell and Monte Carlo stock, the All-American Trap Combo also has adjustable butt plate hardware. With this comes the ability to adjust the length of pull from 14-5/8 inches to 15-1/2 inches and give the recoil pad toe-in or toe-out. A dovetailed trigger blade gives 3/8 inches of adjustment on the reach to the trigger shoe.
All of these features combined make the All-American Trap Combo an incredible gun for the money. This versatile gun is easy to tune to an individual shooter, allowing them to be more comfortable behind the gun and break more clays.
To top it all off, this gun is shipped in a custom Americase built to safely house and transport the two-barrel set gun.
—story by MATT WILLIAMS