By Steve Weisman
Are you ready for this one? The first hunting season is just around the corner, like on September 1! It seems like just yesterday that we were looking forward to the walleye opener!
Yup, dove season is just around the corner, and it’s time to begin making plans. This will be the sixth dove season since the dove hunting season was approved in 2011.
The first thing I would recommend is getting in a little target practice, maybe a few rounds of sporting clays or trap shooting. Doves are incredibly tough to hit because they rarely give hunters an “in your face” shot. Instead, they come zipping and zinging, zipping through like little missiles! Plus, I suggest stocking up on shells, because it is not unusual to go through a box or more of shells during a hunting outing.
Most hunters will use either modified or improved chokes, but I lean toward the improved choke, at least #6 shot with the hopes of taking 30-35 yard shots. Taking longer “hope” shots do nothing but burn up shells and wound birds.
In addition, this is a good time to get your hunting dog ready for the retrieving season. Plus, having a dog increases the chance of not losing downed birds. It also gives the hunter a chance to work on discipline and basic commands. However, the temperatures are usually warm, so make sure to bring plenty of water for both hunter and hunting dog.
Mourning doves prefer feeding on open ground and eat a variety of seeds and grains. As a result, several DNR wildlife areas in each county have food plots that have been planted to attract doves. Portions of these food plots will be cut down/disked a few days prior to the season to help attract doves to the area.
Expect to have other hunters in the same field, so it is important to know where the other groups are and to be safely set up. So, it is a good idea to be scouting these areas before the season to know the lay of the land and to also see the doves’ flight patterns. An ideal spot would be a harvested field (sunflower fields are awesome) with a supply of water (pond or slough) close by.
Best hunting times are early morning (the first two hours) and early evening (the last 1-2 hours).
The goal is to set up along the downed food plot in the remaining standing corn, sunflowers, tall grass or maybe a fence row.
After the hunt
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, breast the birds and wash them in cool water. I suggest keeping them refrigerated until the next day. A friend of mine, Greg Drees has a great 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