Picking the Best Spot in the Dove Field

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Authored by Lee McClellan

Lexington dove hunter James Charas with a bird bagged on opening day. Charas likes to set up in field corners and areas of bare dirt for doves.Frankfort, Ky. – You are the second truck in the parking area at the public dove field on Sept. 1, the opening day of this year’s dove season in Kentucky. You’ve shot some trap to get ready for dove season, bought some quality shells and feel ready to get your 15-bird daily limit.

You set up beside a clump of bushes on a hill that allows an unobstructed view of the entire dove field. You figure this is the best spot. The dove field gradually fills as the morning burns toward public shooting hours at 11 a.m., but no one else sets up within 75 yards of your spot. Doves dive-bomb sunflowers nearest a dead tree in the corner of the field.

That same corner erupts with shotgun fire at 11 a.m. The same few hunters appear every few minutes to retrieve their birds. You shoot at a few high flying birds and miss. The only things you take home in your vest are empty shell hulls.

Even if you’ve honed your shooting skills, you may come home empty-handed if you don’t pick a good spot to set up. Jon Gassett, commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, has some tips.

“I like corners of a field with an outcropping of trees,” he said. “Doves are like fish – they like structure. Dead trees are good as well. They like to light into dead trees and rest.”

So a hunter preparing to stake out a spot on a dove field should look for a dead tree or a clump of trees in a corner of the field. Other spots work well if hunters already claimed the corners.

“A power line running near the field is another great spot to set up,” Gassett explained. “Doves love to perch on power lines before flying down to feed.”

Power lines also provide doves a sight line to follow in flight. Doves use power lines, driveways and lines of trees to lead them to resting, watering and feeding spots.

“Bare dirt is a big draw for me when I’m deciding where to set up in the dove field,” said Lexington resident James Charas, an avid dove hunter and expert wing shooter. “Doves love bare dirt. If I can find a spot with bare dirt and a dead tree, power line or a couple of large trees nearby, that is where I will be hunting.”

Doves often fly through a gap in a line of trees at the edge of the field or through a gap between two hills. A hunter set up on either side of the gap should enjoy good shooting. 

Lexington dove hunter James Charas with a bird bagged on opening day. Charas likes to set up in field corners and areas with bare dirt for doves.Concealment plays a great role in hunter success. Doves are notoriously naïve on opening day. They fly slow and close. This gives the impression to some hunters that you don’t need to wear camouflage for doves. Wearing camouflage, staying hidden under a tree or behind a hay roll until ready to shoot and donning a wide brimmed camouflage hat all increase hunter success. This is especially true after opening weekend.

“I can’t believe what some people wear to the dove field,” Charas said. “They’ll wear a white T-shirt, white socks and khaki shorts. You can see them a mile away. I wear at least a camouflage shirt and hat every time I dove hunt.”

Dove hunters will enjoy 10 more days to hunt for the 2008-2009 season. The first segment of dove season opens Sept. 1 and closes Oct. 24. The second segment opens Nov. 27 and closes Dec. 5, while the third segment of dove season opens Dec. 27, 2008 and closes Jan. 2, 2009.

The 2008-2009 Kentucky Hunting Guide for Doves, Wood Duck, Teal, Woodcock, Snipe and Crow is available now over the internet at fw.ky.gov. This guide lists dozens of public dove fields all over Kentucky that hunters may use.

If you hunt one of these fields or get invited to a private hunt, set up in a good spot and be ones of those leaving with a vest bulging with doves, not spent hulls.
Author Lee McClellan is an award-winning associate editor for Kentucky Afield magazine, the official publication of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. He is a life-long hunter and angler, with a passion for smallmouth bass fishing.