The Dos and Don’ts while Dove Hunting
A dove shoot is the ultimate get-together for many hunters. Typically, a dove shoot is hosted by a farmer or other landowner, and friends, family members, business associates, and others are invited to attend the event. Invitations to dove shoots are usually much sought after, and if you’re lucky enough to have received an invite, you’ll need to observe some hunting etiquette at the shoot if you want to be invited back.
First of all, don’t go to a shoot unless you’re invited by the host. Just because your cousin Billy Bob got invited and says it’s okay for you to join him doesn’t make it so. On the flip side of that same coin, if you were invited, don’t ask others to join you. In most cases, the host has a limited amount of spots available, and unexpected guests can cause confusion. Furthermore, if you tell the host you’re coming to the shoot, be there. There’s a serious strategy involved with good dove shoots. Just the right amount of shooters is needed to keep the doves moving and to ensure a safe experience for everyone. Having too few or too many hunters can result in a disappointing or even dangerous event. Make sure you arrive on time so that you can take your spot before all the shooting begins.
Before heading out, make sure you’re wearing appropriate clothing. Camo is usually a good choice for dove hunting, but other apparel is just as acceptable, as long as it blends in with the terrain. Brown, khaki, and olive drab might work just as well as camouflage clothing. If you’re doing some early season dove hunting, dress in layers. Those cool early mornings can quickly turn into hot late mornings. You might also want to have some ear protection on hand, along with some shooting glasses to protect your eyes from stray pellets.
The most important element in any hunting excursion is safety, and it’s especially integral to a dove shoot. Typically, there will be lots of armed folk in a relatively small area, so it’s extremely important to watch where you shoot. Adhere to the blue-sky rule: Shoot at a bird only if you can see the sky below it. Don’t be tempted to fire on any low flying birds. Make yourself familiar with your immediate surroundings and with nearby hunters. Try to figure out how far away they are, and keep the distance in mind when firing. Make sure the neighboring hunters know where you are, too. Don’t shoot wounded birds on the ground, as the shot can ricochet. Run down the cripple and wring its neck immediately.
Many dove hunters like using a retriever to fetch downed birds. In most cases, the retriever is in the form of a dog, but some hunters use their kids as retrievers on the dove field. Either way, the retriever needs to be under your control at all times – whether it’s the four-legged or the two-legged version. Little kids and untrained dogs can be rambunctious, disrupting the shoot for everyone and putting humans and canines in danger. If you’re within earshot of another hunter and dog, don’t give commands to someone else’s dog…or kid. When hunting in warmer weather, you’ll need some water for the retriever.
In many cases, you’ll be assigned a spot on the field. Once you find out where your placement is, go to it. Don’t ask to be changed to a different spot. The best locations on the field are usually allocated to close friends or family members of the host. Besides, it might turn out that the spot you didn’t particularly like turns out to be a great one. It’s usually pretty tough to predict where the birds will fly. After you get to your place in the field, stay there unless the host asks you to move or until you leave the shoot. When you decide it’s time to exit the field, let nearby hunters know.
Remain quiet and still once the shoot begins. Your noise and motions could easily scare away wily doves, and that’s not fair to those hunters near you. When you knock a bird out of the sky, watch closely where the dove falls. If you have a good dog, it’ll take care of the task for you. If you’re using a kid, make sure he or she understands the importance of watching for the exact location of the downed bird. Don’t leave dead or wounded birds behind. Do everything in your power to find your shot birds. If you happen upon a bird that you know you didn’t hit, it was most likely downed by your neighbor, so take it to him or her.
Pay attention to the hunters near you. If doves are approaching and the hunters don’t notice, signal your fellow wing shooters with a low whistle. Be generous, too. Your shooting zone is likely to overlap with another hunter’s. If you’ve already downed several birds, give your neighbor a chance at a dove or two. If you’re sharing your spot with a pal, don’t mix your dead birds with his or hers. Individual bag limits should be easy to ascertain. Never shoot more than the legal daily limit, either.
Before leaving the shoot, be sure to gather up your spent shells and any trash you might have dropped. If you notice litter left behind by others after the shoot is over, pick it up. Leave everything the way you found it, including barn doors, gates, and fences. Without fail, be sure to deliver a face-to-face thanks to the host for inviting you. If you ever have a dove shoot of your own, be sure to reciprocate.>
Being invited to a dove shoot should be considered an honor. You’ll be judged more by your hunting etiquette than you will by your marksmanship. If you show your host and the other participants that you’re considerate and respectful and that you follow shooting and hunting safety tips, you’re sure to be invited to the next dove shoot.