Dove hunting is one of the most exhilarating experiences of any hunting enthusiast. It is an exciting activity and an essential step in improving your hunting skills.

Dove Hunting Graphic
The Complete Guide to Dove Hunting: From Shotguns to Tactics

Gray Bear Hunting has compiled a comprehensive guide to dove hunting. From the shotguns, chokes, and shot sizes to the tactics and culture, this guide will give you all the information you need to know about dove hunting. In this blog post, we’ll explore everything related to dove hunting, including dove hunters, dove hunt, and dove and season dates.

Where to Find Doves?

For a successful hunt where the dove feeds. Doves are seed eaters. They like corn silage fields, harvested sunflower fields, and harvested wheat stubble. Find shady spots with weed cover

Finding doves in late August is crucial. Many hunters visit a sunflower patch where doves feed on an opening day. Depending on the state, dove hunters hope to shoot 15 or more birds; you can gain an advantage over the competition by scouting multiple locations in the days before the season-opening day.

This is especially crucial when hunting public land, but seeking out private agricultural fields and feeding areas that have recently been cut is also valuable. The hunting pressure will be less on private lands.

When you come across birds on private property, it’s worth taking the time to approach landowners and request permission to hunt. Keep an eye out for freshly burned wheat fields and fields that have been destroyed.

Excellent locations are near water sources, rivers with exposed banks, gravel roads, and power lines are excellent spots to spot where birds roost.

Doves, in particular, rely on these locations for their essential needs – drinking water, aiding digestion with grit, and perching on the lines. When all three elements converge in a single location, it is highly probable to find a substantial population of doves.

Once you’ve located the birds, don’t settle for mediocrity. You can take the time to observe their flight patterns, enabling you to position yourself beneath them in readiness for opening day. You may need to arrive hours before legal shooting time on public land to secure your spot.

Gun for Dove Hunting

The most common shotguns in the dove fields are 20-, 16- or 12-gauge. The big 12-gauge semi-auto with a modified choke takes center stage as the most popular.

Dove Hunting

This is partly due to a dove’s ability to be difficult to hit because of their fast and erratic flight maneuverability.

The best shot is steel loads. You should bring extra shot sizes between 7.5 and 9 to ensure enough ammunition. Enjoy your hunt without the worry of running out!

Dove Hunting Essentials

Dove hunting is an excellent way to sharpen your shooting skills. You first need to know the right time to do it. Dove hunting is usually done in the early morning or late evening when the doves are most active. Before you go, please familiarize yourself with the male and female doves and study their flying patterns.

  • Hunters 18 and older need a valid State Hunting License (or combination hunt and fish license), a migratory bird stamp, and a migratory bird stamp.

  • Hunters aged 10-17 only need the youth combination hunt and fish license (the state migratory bird stamp is included with this license).

  • Youth under age ten can hunt doves without a license if accompanied by a licensed adult age 18 or older ( a maximum of two unlicensed children may accompany one adult licensed hunter).

  • Know the daily bag limit in your state.

How to Shoot a Dove

Dove shooting isn’t easy. If you want to be one of the successful dove hunters, you need to practice.

If you plan on hitting doves, plan to spend time at the range and practice clay shooing: skeet and trap shooting. Doves have erratic flight patterns and change direction quickly. You have to be fast to get a shot off.

Dove Hunting with a Dog
Dove Hunting with a Dog

Dove Species

On your next dove hunt, it is essential that you know what dove you are shooting at. Certain species of doves require a hunting license and can only be hunted during specific dates and hunting seasons.

Mourning doves, for instance, are plentifully hunted in 41 states but are protected in Massachusetts. Furthermore, they are safeguarded in New York, Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont.

Protected Species

Mourning Dove

The most common species of dove is the Mourning Dove

Mourning Dove, Cabin Lake Viewing Blinds, Deschutes National Forest, Near Fort Rock, Oregon
  • Brown with black spots on the wing

  • Long, pointed tail

White-Winged Dove

white Wing Dove
White Wing Dove. By SearchNet Media – White-Winged DovesUploaded by Snowmanradio, CC BY 2.0,
  • White bar on wing

  • Large, rounded tail

Inca Dove

Inca Dove
Inca Dove, Lost Dutchman State Park, Apache Junction, Arizona By –, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Rufous in wing when flying

Square, no white.

Common Ground-Dove

Bright rufous under and Iridescent spots above

Common Ground Dove
Common Ground Dove By MarshBunny – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Unprotected Species of Dove

Eurasian Collared Dove.
Eurasian Collared Dove. By Charles J. Sharp – Own work, from Sharp Photography,, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Hunting collared doves in the USA offers a thrilling experience year-round, unlike other game birds with defined hunting seasons. These doves are designated as “non-protected” or “invasive” species in many states, adding to the excitement of the hunt. Eurasian Collared-Doves

  • No mark on the wing

  • Square with white patches on the tail

The dove hunt is the most exciting and challenging aspect of dove hunting. You can use various tactics to hunt doves successfully, such as shooting birds as decoys, hiding in cover, and using a bird dog.

One of the most popular tactics used is the use of dove decoys. This method involves placing several decoys on the ground near your hunting spot. The decoys should be placed in such a way that they mimic the behavior of real doves. You can also use a dove call to attract more doves to your hunting area or spot.

Another popular tactic is hiding in cover. This method involves camouflaging yourself to blend in with the environment. You can do this by wearing the appropriate clothes or using a ground blind.

Dove Season

Dove season varies depending on the state and region. In some areas, dove season can start as early as August, while in others, it can start in September or October. You’ll need to be able to familiarize yourself with the regulations and laws of dove hunting in your region to hunt dove there.

What to Wear Dove Hunting

When choosing what to wear while dove hunting, it is important to consider the weather conditions, the terrain, and your comfort. The following are some general tips:

  • To ensure comfort and adaptability in varying temperatures, it is advisable to wear clothing in layers. This will enable you to effortlessly modify your attire as needed throughout the day.

  • Wear comfortable, breathable clothing. You will likely be doing a fair amount of walking and sitting, so you want to ensure your clothes are not too restrictive.

  • Choose dark-colored, camouflage clothing. By following this advice, you can seamlessly merge with your surroundings, significantly minimizing the chances of being noticed by doves.

  • Wear sturdy boots or shoes. The terrain where you are hunting may be uneven or brushy, so you want to make sure your footwear is comfortable and supportive.

  • Wear a hat and sunglasses. This will protect you from the sun and any falling shot pellets.

  • Bring insect repellent. Mosquitoes and other biting insects can be a nuisance, so bringing insect repellent with you is a good idea.

Here is a more specific list of clothing items that you may want to consider wearing while dove hunting:

  • Top: Long-sleeved camo shirt made of a breathable fabric. A bird vest is essential to hunt doves to hold shells and carry doves.

  • Bottom: Long camouflage pants or shorts

  • Headwear: Camouflage hat or cap

  • Footwear: Sturdy boots or shoes

  • Other: Sunglasses, insect repellent, sunscreen

In addition to the above, you may also want to consider wearing a hunting vest or belt. This will give other hunters around you a place to store your shells and other hunting gear.

It is also important to note that some states have specific requirements for dove-hunting clothing. For example, some states require hunters to wear blaze orange during certain times of the year. Be sure to check your state’s hunting regulations before you go hunting.


  • Do not shoot within ¼ mile (440 yards) of an occupied structure without the resident’s permission.

  • Do not shoot from, across, or into roads or railways.

  • Do not leave shotgun shells or other litter on the ground.

  • Do not hunt over waters all day. (Allow time for livestock to access waters)

  • Do not consume drugs or alcohol while hunting or handling firearms.

  • To ensure proper identification, it is recommended to keep one fully feathered wing attached to the bird until you have reached your permanent residence or the place where the dove will be consumed.

  • Do keep individual limits of birds separate from others while in the field, in the cooler, and in transit

  • Please respect postings on private land and leave gates as you find them.

  • Make a reasonable effort to retrieve all downed birds?

  • Do report violations to Operation Game Thief, 800 352-0700.

FAQs of Dove Hunting

What is the point of dove hunting?

Upland bird hunting offers a unique social aspect resembling hunting as a group rather than deer hunting.

It’s common to see hunters dispersing across a property on opening day, pooling their game for a delightful cookout later in the weekend.

Moreover, it’s incredibly hassle-free, as there’s no requirement for blinds, camouflage, waders, or any additional gear.

What does Dove Taste Like?

Cooking a dove breast to a perfect medium-rare at 130 to 135 degrees yields a surprisingly mild and delightful flavor akin to other delectably cooked dark-fleshed game meats. However, once you venture past medium-rare, an unmistakable gaminess emerges.

Where can I dove hunt in Arizona?

When the morning of Friday, September 1 arrives, Buckeye becomes the ultimate destination for the opening of the early dove season in 2023.

The Robbins Butte, Powers Butte, and Arlington wildlife areas boast expansive fields that are irresistibly alluring to flocks of mourning and white-winged doves.

What time of day is best for dove hunting?

Setting up the hunting spot no later than sunrise is crucial for morning dove hunting. Alternatively, evening shooters will have the highest chance of success during the period just before dusk.

Whether you are a beginner or an experienced dove hunter, it is important to exercise self-control and refrain from shooting until the doves are within range of open choke. This requires a thorough understanding of your choke’s effective range.

What is the best state for dove hunting?

Texas boasts the largest dove populations in the nation, making it a haven for extraordinary Dove Hunting experiences. Every year, Texas sees the successful harvest of over of flying doves, 5 million mourning doves, and nearly 2 million white wing doves.

What is dove meat called?

The term “squab” likely has its roots in Scandinavia, originating from the Swedish word “skvabb” which refers to loose, fatty flesh. Originally, it encompassed all species of doves and pigeons, including the Wood Pigeon, the Mourning Dove species, the now-extinct Passenger Pigeon, and their meat. In recent times, however, squab meat mainly comes from domesticated pigeons.

What states don’t allow dove hunting?

The only states that still ban it are Michigan and the Northeast. There are several reasons for these bans. One argument is climate: Doves are hot-weather migratory birds that tend to exist in fewer numbers in the cooler Northeast.


Dove hunting is an incredible experience every hunter should try at least once. In this guide, we’ve shared all the vital information you need to know about dove hunting, including equipment, tactics, culture, and regulations.

Always follow safety guidelines, practice ethical hunting habits, and respect your fellow hunters and the environment. With this guide, you’re well on your way to becoming a successful dove hunter.


Were you aware that mourning doves are the most abundant and widely distributed game birds in North America? These prolific breeders typically live for 1-2 years. To ensure sustainability, dove hunting seasons are carefully regulated, preserving them as a valuable wildlife resource. Indeed, dove hunters play a crucial role in conservation efforts.

An excise tax on firearms and ammunition contributes to the federal Pittman-Robertson Fund. This fund is then allocated to state wildlife agencies for wildlife management, benefiting all citizens.

Moreover, hunters generate hundreds of thousands of dollars for the local economy as they partake in this beloved American tradition. Their purchases of ammunition, gas, food, and lodging contribute to the growth and prosperity of the community.

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