Dove season begins Sept. 1. In the 12 months between opening days, hunters tend to forget some of the important details. Here are the top 10 things to remember during dove season:
10. Find a good spot to hunt
You can either do your own scouting if you have access to multiple hunting areas, or you can pay an outfitter to do the scouting for you and place you in a good field. Dove hunting fees average $50 to $75 a day. Doves are flighty and tend to be here today, gone tomorrow. Early in the season, they're usually prompted to move by consecutive days of hunting pressure and/or a weather change that features rainy or cooler conditions.
9. Wear camouflage
Doves have excellent eyesight and can readily spot any person in a white T-shirt or a red baseball cap. At the very least, wear drab colors like khaki that blend with surrounding vegetation. Birds are also very good at seeing movement, so remain still when doves are headed your way and move only after the birds are in shooting range.
8. Watch how the doves fly
For reasons unknown to us, doves tend to enter and vacate feeding fields via predictable routes. Study the field until you determine a hotspot, then place yourself there. Don't be afraid to relocate if the flight pattern changes.
7. Use quality shotgun shells
There's a reason some shells cost $3 a box and others cost $4 to $5 a box. The more expensive shells feature harder pellets and a better plastic shot cup. They produce more consistent patterns. Whichever shells you shoot, pick up your empty hulls after the hunt. Plastic shotgun shells are a particularly noxious form of litter.
6. Use open chokes
Doves are easy to kill but hard to hit. Except during unusual hunting conditions, a full choke or even a modified choke will more put more birds in the bag. Stick with an improved cylinder choke or even a skeet choke and hold your shots to 30 yards or closer.
5. Drink plenty of water
Do not drink beer or other alcohol, either in the field or while driving home from the hunt. Protect yourself from biting insects by spraying your boots, socks and clothing with a repellent containing Permethrin and treat exposed skin with a repellent containing DEET.
4. Buy a license
The 2002-03 Texas hunting licenses expire Aug. 31. If you're hunting on Sept. 1 or afterward, you'll need a 2003-04 license.
3. Do not co-mingle birds
This is a common error that causes legal problems for hunters checked by a game warden. The law reads that each hunter must keep his birds separate. Once multiple bags are mixed, it's impossible for a warden to tell who shot which birds.
2. Hunting with children
Hunting with kids should be a learning experience for them. Adults can't spend the time and devote the attention a youngster deserves if they're worried about shooting their own birds.
1. Be careful out there
Treat every shotgun as if it's loaded. Even if you think you've unloaded your gun, check it again -- just to make sure. Avoid firing shots toward other hunters. Wear shooting glasses.