Edgar Castillo | | All Hunting Articles
Posted 09/01/2023

There had been no birds for at least an hour. The last dove that flew by was met with a string of pellets. The dove lay next to five others on an old heavy, weathered canvas bag that saw double-duty in the duck blind. I looked up at my father, and he was gazing into the blue sky. He must’ve sensed me staring at him, because he turned to me with a smile and said in Spanish, “Let’s stay the whole day out here.” I nodded in agreement and gathered up two frijoles negros sandwiches for us to eat. We sat and talked and continued watching for doves that never came. I was happy to spend all day with my father and not see a thing.

Just before noon the activity started picking up. He shot a few more doves, slowly adding to the growing pile. Birds came into the cut grain field in singles and doubles. It was enough action to keep things interesting. A couple of times we would walk the fields and jump shoot grazing doves on the other end. This would cause birds to move about giving my father an opportunity to connect. As the sun rose higher into the sky, birds started flying again. It went like this for the rest of the day until it was once again that magic hour when the doves became stir crazy and divebombed for a place on the ground to gorge on seeds before returning to the roost. He never shot his limit, but I learned a valuable lesson that day…you can hunt doves all day, if you’re willing to be patient or just spend a day with someone you look up to.

What time of day is best for dove hunting? All day! My response is probably not what you were expecting. Others will say the best shooting is during those times when doves are flying between their roosting and feeding areas, such as sunflower or some type of cut grain fields. In the morning, that generally translates between sunrise and 9-10am and the last two hours prior to sunrise.

I bet most dove hunters set their watches for those two crucial times and after there is a lull in the action, pack up their motorized decoys and buckets and make for the trucks. September 1st will have all of us scrambling to get to the best places in the fields, scrounging up whatever ammunition we can muster up, and cross our fingers in the hopes the weather is ideal. A cold front coming in too soon may scatter migrating doves but won’t affect local birds too much. Either way, hunting doves is not just for the morning or evening, it can be an all-day affair.

EARLY MORNING. After a couple of years of bird hunting under his belt, I remember my father gently shaking me at zero-dark-thirty on his birthday…September 1st. How lucky can someone be to celebrate their birth in the fields every year shooting doves. We would arrive early to get to that perfect spot. Things were a lot simpler back then. Two makeshift “hunting” chairs painted and put together haphazardly were our perches. The goal was to see the doves, but they couldn’t see you. There were no decoys mimicking feeding doves, nor battery-operated plastic birds with spinning wings.

I recall standing in the ever-losing darkness at the sound of crickets and other awakening critters. The first rays of sunlight that caught the glistening dew on the grass and birds chirping was the signal that those long-awaited gray birds would be coming in soon after leaving the roost. The action would be heavy til about 9 or 10am. This is the most common and popular timeframe for hunters to shoot doves. Once the flight starts, doves can be seen flying all over like acrobatic airplanes. The key was to find and set up in a location where doves crossed your shooting lanes. If enough shooters were in the field, it kept the birds moving giving everyone a chance to connect.

A PRE-LUNCH STROLL ALONG THE TREES. If you have stuck around til lunchtime, it’s time to get up and walk-up some doves. By this time doves are or have left the fields and returned to the edges of the woods or a clump of trees for a midday rest. These rest areas will often be within a mile of feeding areas or closer along nearby tree lines and adjoining tracts. Doves prefer scrubby woods and may sit on the ground or perched atop treetops and branches. Jump-shooting doves by walking these areas can be productive. A dog with a good nose is necessary to find those doves that fall in thick vegetive cover.

This is a good time to scout the area for ponds (for the end of the day shooting) and other locations that doves could be congregating at for some fast hip-shooting action.

LUNCH! At about this time dove hunters and birds alike will be hungry. Doves will begin to leave the thickets and tree sanctuaries and head back to the fields for a noon meal of sunflower seeds and grains. The best places to be for shooters will be at your morning shooting spot or along flyways to catch doves flying in. If you are hunting with friends, setting up at a variety of locations should allow opportunities for all. Someone will get a shot.

AFTERNOON. Once again, the doves will start their daily migration back to the fields that fed them. This could begin about two hours prior to the end of legal shooting light. As it gets closer to nightfall the action will pick up. Dove hunters should be set up in their spots with anticipation of the waves of birds coming in. Entry and exit points as well as flight paths will have already been identified earlier in the morning so if any adjustments need to be made, now is the time.

INBETWEEN WALKS. I’m not sure where my father got the idea to walk-up doves, but we did it at intervals to stretch our stiff legs from sitting. It made sense to me to walk the fields and bust up ground dwelling doves that had sneaked in undetected at the far end of the field. Depending on the type of field we were hunting, we would walk rows just like we hunted roosters pressuring feeding doves to take to the air making themselves vulnerable. We would walk the entire field adding a few more doves then return to our blind. If no birds presented themselves after about thirty minutes, we would repeat this knowing more doves would have landed nearby and merely walked in.

Many years later, if my father and I were to only ones hunting a location, we would set up a Mojo dove on the opposite side of the field, completely away from us. His idea was that it would attract passing birds. Thus, when we were at the point to start walking for doves, there would hopefully be some flocked up near the decoys. This would be repeated several times. I never knew anyone else that used this tactic, but it was only effective if the field was large enough that the gunfire at the main location was far enough away that it wouldn’t deter hungry doves to feel safe at the secondary target.

A DRINK BEFORE & AFTER DINNER. About an hour before sundown, doves will leave the fields and head for a watering hold. This could be just after they feed for the end of the day or before they head to the roost. It could be a pond or stock tank or a puddle of collected water, either way be ready as the shooting can turn into a barrage of gunfire. Locate a place out of the way to conceal yourself just before doves come in for a landing. Shooting will be close, so an improved-cylinder (IC) choke is recommended. If you’re shooting a double, opt for IC and Cylinder (C) or IC for close shots and Modified (M) for those doves that see what’s going on and decide to bank in midair and escape the same fate as their brethren.

So, this season if you have time to spare and the rest of the droves of dove hunters have packed up only after the late morning hours, take the opportunity to stretch out a day of hunting doves. It may surprise you that you can scratch a few doves here and there throughout the day. Bring plenty of water, snacks, ammo, and maybe convince an amigo to stay with you for a DAY of dove hunting.

About the Author : Edgar Castillo
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Edgar Castillo is a recently retired law enforcement officer for a large Kansas City metropolitan agency. He also served in the United States Marine Corps.

Born in Guatemala, hunting was a new concept when Edgar came to the U.S. His passion lies in the uplands as he travels across public lands throughout Kansas or wherever the dirt road takes him…to hunt open fields, walk treelines, & bust through plum thickets in search of wild birds in wild places.

This fervid emotion for the uplands has since blossomed into a SIGNIFICANT social media presence. It has allowed Edgar to share his experiences and connect with other bird hunters through writing.

Follow Edgar’s upland escapades on Instagram at @hunt_birdz




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