By Steve Weisman
This week’s column continues last week’s discussion of the upcoming dove season, which opens on September 1. Greg Drees of Arnolds Park, who was the chair of the seven person Natural Resource Commission that put the final stamp of approval on the dove hunting law in 2011, shares hunting tips with our readers, looking at optimum weather conditions, the hunt itself, special regulations and his favorite dove recipe.
If Drees were to pick the perfect conditions for a dove hunt, it would include a cool morning in the 40s-50s or a mild evening with temperatures slowly cooling off into the upper 50s. “In other words, I look for those typical September temperatures. Finally, add a gentle breeze and a slight overcast. On a morning hunt, I target the first two hours beginning with ½ hour before sunrise, while in the evening, I like that last 1 ½ hour before sunset. If I had to choose one over the other, I would choose the evening hunt. It just seems as if there are more birds, maybe because they will be moving to roost.”
Make sure to get to the area before the “optimum” hunting time and get concealed in a place where you can readily bring the shotgun up for a clear shot. Set up so that the shot will be inside 30 yards. When the doves do come through, expect them to come zipping through like little missiles. They rarely give hunters an “in your face” shot. Rather it’s zig and a zag. For that reason, don’t fall into the trap of flock shooting in hopes of dropping one. Do your best to pick one out of the flock. Drees adds, “It’s not unusual to go through a box of shells or more during a hunt.” Unless you have a dog with you to retrieve downed birds, make sure to mark the downed bird. A good hunting dog will mark and then find downed birds. Definitely a good warm-up for your hunting dog, too!
Remember, this time of year can mean some hot weather. Always bring plenty of water for both hunter and dog. Dehydration can be an issue. Don’t forget the bug spray and the sunscreen. Dove hunters will often carry a camouflaged five or six-gallon pail for storage and to sit on.
Since doves are considered a migratory game bird, hunters will need to have a plug in their gun limiting them to three shells and must register with the Harvest Information Program before they go hunting. They do this in two ways:
- Go to the DNR’s online license sales site and login as if they were going to buy a license. Once they have entered their ID information (either the DNR # printed on their hunting license, their driver license number or their social security number and date of birth) they will see a “Dove Registration” button on the right side of the screen. If they click on the button they will be automatically registered to hunt doves. That is all the hunter needs to do to be registered.
- Hunters who do not have access to the Internet can call a toll free number: 855-242-3683. They will need to enter 1) their DNR ID number and 2) their date of birth (mm/dd/yyyy) using their phone’s keypad. If they have a license then they will be automatically registered to hunt doves.
Hunters are required to have a valid Iowa small game hunting license and the habitat fee to hunt doves. Shooting hours are one-half hour before sunrise to sunset. The daily bag limit is 15 doves with a possession limit of 30. Hunters must have a plug in their shotgun just as they would during the waterfowl season later in the fall.
Oh my yes! That’s the topping to the perfect hunt. “My family and friends look forward to eating dove.” It all begins with cleaning the birds soon after the hunt. If you are going to be in the field for several hours, putting the bagged birds on ice will help ensure that the birds will be brought home in good shape. Once home, Drees will breast the birds and wash them in cool water. Here is his recipe for grilled dove breast marinate:
- Place breasts and Italian dressing in a zip lock bag and place in the refrigerator for several hours (ideally 24 hours) or make your own dark dressing with equal amount of Hoisin (oriental basting sauce) and olive oil, add soy sauce (1/2 the amount of Hoisin and olive oil)
- Add salt and pepper (to taste)
- Add a dash of good white wine
- Before grilling, take breasts and marinade out of the refrigerator for an hour
- Place breasts on hot grill and sear 4-5 minutes per side. Grill to taste
Dove Hunting Checklist for Success
- Scouting potential areas prior to the season can be highly beneficial
- Look for recently harvested small grain or sunflower fields and stock dams/ponds with heavily grazed pasture areas
- Look for 1-2 year plantings of new prairie grasses that have recently been clipped
- Blend into the area by setting up along a fencerow or other cover or in standing sunflowers. A camouflaged five-gallon bucket works well for a seat and also to carry shells, water, doves, etc. Hunting the same area for several straight days will move the doves out
- Use an open-choked shotgun with #6, #7 or #8 hi-brass shells
- Blaze orange is not required. However, it is suggested that hunters wear and orange cap or vest while walking to and from the field for safety