John Kilgore

John Kilgore, Phoenix Outdoors Correspondent


 With Sept. 1 and dove season just around the corner, it’s time to get out and cruise the back roads in search of these popular, migratory birds.

Getting a youngster involved on a red-hot field will provide endless hours of enjoyment. It’s often much easier to get permission from a landowner to dove hunt than other types of hunting.

These “gray rockets” on average weigh a little more than four ounces and have been clocked at speeds up to 55 miles per hour.

Doves feed on sunflowers, corn, wheat stubble and various other weed seeds. They prefer to eat on bare ground because their legs are not strong enough to scratch through litter nor are their bodies long enough to clear most obstacles.

Dove are typically found around recently disturbed or harvested agriculture fields, water holes in dry years and loafing trees or roost areas. They like a shallow pond with a clean, open shore – one without grass and a bank with no erosion for easy walking.

Finding your quarry isn’t always an easy task but you can start the scouting process by checking out traditional areas where you’ve seen or hunted doves in the past.

Scouting can entail considerable driving the backroads looking for dove around agriculture fields, on high wires and in trees. Dove recon is best done from daylight until about 10 a.m. or in the evening after about 4 p.m. until sunset.

Early cool fronts and rains often change dove use patterns so scout-ing the week before the season is best to confirm the dove you found two weeks ago are still using the area.

The dove breeds from late March to September and, while we have a resident population of doves in Oklahoma, a majority of birds migrate down from Canada through the Sooner state down into Mexico.

Doves are an attractive, grayish-colored bird with a small head, a plump body and a long, pointed tail. Their eyes have a blue ring of featherless skin around them. Males will be slightly larger than females, and females will have more of a brown coloring.

When they are aloft, their wings will make a sharp “whistling” sound. Doves are fast in flight and capable of reaching speeds of 55 miles per hour.

The mourning dove gets its name from its low, moaning “coo-ooo-ooo” sound it makes. They are quick and maneuverable while in flight and can escape most predators.

One of my fondest memories occurred on a dove field near Sooner Lake many years ago. It was an “invite” deal with college friends who, like me, had a passion for the outdoors.

I was a rookie and, as it turned out, my buddies and their father were some of the finest wing shots in the nation. While their bag limits came quick and easy, two boxes of empty hulls lay at my feet without a feather to show for my efforts.

I was the recipient of every conceivable joke or prank you could imagine. The remarks, while true, ranged anywhere from them taking up a collection to purchase me shells not by the box but the case or to just personally fund Federal or Remington ammunition sales.

Dove season is a great way to introduce a youngster to the world of hunting and a break from the computer and today’s social media stage. Using the right shot-gun can make a huge difference with a youngster – perhaps a 410 or 20 gauge shotgun using 7 to 7 1/2 shot is recommended.

On the serious side, as with all hunting, SAFE-TY is priority one. Each season a number of hunting accidents occur that shouldn’t have happened because someone wasn’t thinking before they pulled the trigger on the firearm. Before going afield, check the hunting regulations.

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