With the start of dove season right around the corner, now is the time to begin preparations to maximize your time in the field next weekend.
Jim Brown, the buying director and purchasing agent for Bowie Outfitters in Baton Rouge, has been dove hunting for more than 50 years and recently shared his top tips for a successful opening weekend, which kicks off Saturday, Sept. 7 in both the north and south zones in Louisiana.
1. The right ammunition is crucial, and with recent shortages, now is the time to make sure you have enough for opening day.
“Ammunition is paramount. If you can find it, you need to get it. Personally I like either 7 ½s or 8s. It gives you a good number of pellets and it’s a good shot size,” Brown said. “It’s all about having a good wide pattern, but also having enough shot density to make a kill.”
2. Use a shotgun with at least a 28-inch barrel.
Putting the barrel on a bird can be challenging to say the least, with the old rule of thumb among dove hunters that the shooting average is about one dove for every five shots.
“I’m not going to shoot a shotgun with a barrel less than 28 inches,” Brown said. “It’s easier to lead a dove with a longer barrel because you have a longer focal, or aiming, plane.”
3. Shooting with the right choke is key.
Brown usually starts out with an improved cylinder on opening weekend when the doves aren’t as high, but he changes chokes as the season progresses.
“Early in the season the birds hadn’t been shot at, so I’ll usually start out with an improved cylinder choke. It gives me less distance, but a wider shot pattern,” Brown said.
He likes Briley’s Dove Duster once the birds are a little higher and more skittish, then usually switches to a modified choke late in the season.
4. Wear a good hunting vest to keep your birds and shells organized.
“I don’t like to be fumbling for shotgun shells,” Brown said. “If I get into good action, I want my shells available in the front pockets of a good dove vest with a bird bag on the back to put my doves in.”
5. Find a lightweight, comfortable seat for a more enjoyable day.
“I prefer the 5-gallon-bucket stools with the lid on top and the seat that swivels,” Brown said. “And the bucket is a great place to store extra shells, water and snacks.”
6. Wear high-performance camo clothing to keep you concealed... and cool.
Brown said many options from Under Armour are perfect for September hunts in Louisiana.
“Doves have very good eyesight, so I try to match my camo to the field I’m hunting,” Brown said. “Cotton is a thing of the past. You need a garment with a good wicking characteristic to it because it’s usually hot out there. It will help to keep you cooler and comfortable, especially in the first split.”
7. Practice. Practice. Practice.
“Go to your local gun club or skeet range with your gear and get in a little practice with your leads before you go hunting,” Brown said. “You can’t practice too much.”
In addition, Brown suggested a good pair of sunglasses to protect your eyes from glare, as well as a cap or wide-brimmed hat to shield you from the September sun.