Dove hunting is special, and the season is one that even the most experienced sportsmen look forward to with eager anticipation. It’s a family and friends affair that doesn’t require exhausting hikes, multiple layers of cold-weather gear or monk-like vows of silence. The memories—even when the birds aren’t cooperative—last a lifetime, especially when you remember these seven essentials for dove hunting.
A license, Harvest Information Program number (free), suitable shotgun and shotshells are the legal minimum requirements before you head out opening day. They are just enough to begin, but don’t overlook the gear guaranteed to improve your success and maximize your fun.
Breathable hunting vests are perfect for those hot, early-season dove hunts.
When the action’s fast and furious—as it often is—searching for fresh shotshells in a pants pocket or from a box on the ground is slow and annoying. A quality hunting vest, one specifically designed for birds and small game, is the ideal solution.
Regardless of the model you select, it needs shotshell loops strategically located for quick, easy and intuitive access. Enough ammo should be at the ready for several fast-arriving flights.
A game bag on back is ideal for carrying your quarry and minimizes the number of return trips to a vehicle or cooler. Make sure it’s lined to prevent leakage and openings should be generous and angled toward the front to insert doves without removing the vest.
Dove hunting is usually a warm-weather event. For that reason, the upper part of the vest should feature mesh construction for breathability and comfort. The HQ Outfitters Dove & Small Game Hunting Vest is a good example with all the right features. In Mossy Oak Break Up Country camo, it’ll help prevent those flights from spotting you before it’s too late—doves can see bright colors like hunter orange—and the canvas duck construction means it can take abuse.
There’s a reason readily accessible reloads are critical—gun capacity is limited to three shotshells when taking doves. You’re facing a quarry that’s unpredictable, fast and wary the moment the season opens. Those survival instincts increase the odds you’ll run the gun dry with painful regularity.
For those hunters who don’t prefer a vest, consider a shell carrier to keep ammo at hand. Many are constructed from elastic and simply slip onto a shotgun’s stock, like the Buttstock Cartridge Carrier from HQ Outfitters.
Another versatile option is a dove belt with a game bag and pockets up front. It needs to be comfortable, though, so make sure it’s adjustable for waste size, lightweight and built to last.
It should also be primarily camouflage, like the version from HQ Outfitters. With a lined game bag, four front pockets and separate water bottle pocket, odds are good it’ll be used on more opening days than just dove season.
If you’re the designated mule in your hunting party, consider upgrading to a comfortable and versatile day pack. Again, camo is highly recommended for pursuing doves, and when you find a version adaptable enough for use throughout the year, it’s a bonus.
The HQ Outfitters version is hydration compatible, comes in Mossy Oak Terra Gila camo and is constructed from a silent Tricot fabric that lends itself to big-game season’s stealthy stalks. Compression straps prevent loads from shifting, while the 24-liter capacity, an organizer pocket and water bottle pouches on each side will carry all your essentials.
A camouflage backpack will carry all your dove hunting essentials.
Cover and Camo
Standing in the open gives doves a decided advantage. Once they spot your silhouette, they veer off long before they get within range, or launch mind-boggling evasive maneuvers.
That aerial show is part of the fun, but you can minimize the act by remaining behind or, at the very least, in front of cover. Wear camouflage, head to toe if possible, and consider donning a lightweight and moisture-wicking neck gaiter. Today, they are available in a variety of patterns ideal for matching any foliage. HQ Outfitters offers a line that includes Mossy Oak’s New Bottomland, Original Bottomland, NWTF Obsession and Break-Up Country.
Take a Seat
Those dawn and dusk flights are rarely on schedule, even when it comes to doves. It’s okay to take a seat while you’re waiting for that arrival. In fact, it’s encouraged.
Truck tailgates are not exactly comfortable or always possible to position in a good direction to spot in-coming flights. The alternatives, rocks, trees and the ground, aren’t exactly inviting, either. Thankfully, manufacturers have come up with a variety of portable, lightweight and stable solutions that are budget-friendly and downright cushy by comparison.
The HQ Outfitters Folding Stool is built to last with a steel frame, and its carry strap allows hands-free toting to your hunting site. It’s constructed from heavy-duty camo nylon fabric and has a handy, zippered storage compartment under the seat to stow water, ammo or other gear.
If storage isn’t a huge concern, consider a three-legged stool that also folds compactly for travel or storage. It’s lightweight, yet capable of holding up to 300 pounds.
Portable stools are a must-have for dove hunting.
If you have a five-gallon bucket on hand, snap on the Silent Swivel Bucket Seat. Its cushion is comfy enough for hours of dove hunting and the silent swiveling action will likely see frequent use in your deer blind.
Attract Their Attention
Doves attract doves, and decoys are an effective means of bringing them in. They’re inexpensive and they work well when displayed prominently on branches or wire.
Dove decoys are easy to use and help bring doves within shooting range.
If you get serious about dove hunting after an outing or two, there’s something else to consider. Connecting on those fast-flying birds before they drop below the radar or barrel roll out of sight is a challenge that takes skill. Successful hunters practice regularly and there’s no better way to do so than by busting clays. It doesn’t take a huge investment to get started, either. The HQ Outfitters Hand Thrower will polish those skills and build knowledge without breaking the bank.
Regardless how cooperative the birds are, virtually every dove hunt is a successful one when it’s shared with good friends and family. The aerial acrobatics create indelible memories and shared laughter at both missed and unbelievable shots.
This year, get out there and enjoy dove hunting before the season ends.