I spent many years shooting competitive Sporting Clays and also as a National Sporting Clays Association Level II gunning instructor teaching others to hit more targets. I have helped lots of shooters to improve their shooting skills. In this article I want to give you some tips to make you a better wing shot and to help you have more fun in the field. Dove hunts in Texas are often a social event and a chance to be among friends. It is always more fun if you can out shoot your buddies. Here are a few ways that you can help you drop more doves with fewer shells fired.
1. Practice: Do not just go out and blast away, have someone that is a better shooter than you watch your style and help you along. A professional lesson or two are well worth the investment. If you have no one to help you get a good video or book to help you along. Practice your mount in front of a mirror until you become smooth and fluid. Always remember speed is not fast, smooth is fast.
2. Focus: Learn to focus on the eye of the bird or front of the target. Too many people focus on the whole target or on bird’s tails as they are easily seen. Have you ever shot at a bird and it leaves a trail of floating tail feathers. I wonder why? Focus on the head or eye of the bird; I have had people call me when they see a dove blink for the first time. It will happen if you focus on the eyes and you will be amazed as your bird count goes up.
3. Mount on the target or just in front: Many people practice the old style of pass through shooting where they come from behind the target and try to brush it out of the sky. No one with this method wins major competitions anymore. Your shot string is approximately six foot long, if the first pellet in the string goes behind the target guess where the rest of them go? If half of the shot string goes in front of the target you still get a kill. What does all this mean? It means you should always mount in front of the target and never get behind it in your swing and follow through. Shoot to miss in front of the bird and watch the doves hit the ground.
4. Move, Mount, Shoot: This phrase should be engraved in your mind. Move with the flight of the bird. This means move the gun with the flight of the bird in the ready to mount position (NOT MOUNTED) when the bird reaches the area where you wish to shoot simply mount the gun on the front of the target pull out in front of the target and pull the trigger. I see hunters every year that spot a dove coming in from a long way off and mount the gun and track the bird, shoot and miss. Yet when someone yells BIRD and they look up, see the bird and shoot, they crush it. If you track the bird you will almost always try to aim and miss the bird.
5. Do Not Aim: The bead on a shotgun is not to aim with unless you hunt turkeys or shoot slugs. Compare it to the hood ornament on a car; it is simply there for your subconscious to know you are on target. Focus only on the target so you can swing smoothly and stay in front of the target. If you feel like your swing is jerky in movement it means you are changing focus from the target to the front bead and back to the target. A shotgun swing is not jerky only your focus back and forth. This is one of the most important tips I can give you. Consider the shotgun bead the miss me bead and stay focused on the bird.
All of the above tips will help you be a better shot but there are also other tools and methods that you can use to bring the dove in closer to you and that will help you get more shots at those flighty dove.
Clothing: White or bright clothing is definitely out as it will scare the birds. Camo or dark earth tones that will match the terrain you are hunting in. As it is super hot this time of year remember to keep the clothing light in weight for coolness. Put on a good insect repellent as ticks and chiggers are out in force this time of year.
Decoys: I often carry a few plastic decoys that clip on to tree limbs or barbwire fences. It is amazing how many dove coming down a field will fly by and check the decoys. The new decoys with the moving wings are very effective in drawing dove within range.
Eye Wear: During the early and late shooting hours I like to wear amber shooting lenses as the contrast gives me better target acquisition. During the bright part of the day I wear brown, green or smoke lens colors to kill the glare.
Choke Choice: Unless you are shooting high flying pass over doves you should leave the modified and full chokes in the case. Improved cylinder will help most hunters increase the number of birds in the game bag. If I am sitting at a tank or a feeding area I will shoot a skeet or cylinder choke for the more open pattern.
Shot size: I carry two sizes with me to change the density and distance. I mostly shoot 8 shot as it has good distance and a dense pattern without many holes. If I need to extend my distance just a bit I will use 7 ½ shot. The pattern has a few more holes in it but it will get me another 10 yards of kill distance.
Barrel length: I am a fan of longer shotgun barrels as I find it is harder to mess up a good swing and follow through with a long barrel. A short barrel tends to increase poking or spot shooting. Remember to insert the barrel in front of the bird pull out and shoot while keeping the gun moving until the target falls. Follow through is very important and hard to maintain with short barrels.
Hydration: The temperatures this time of year can be extremely hot so drink lots of water or sport drinks. Keep the alcoholic beverages locked away until after the guns are cased for the day. Don’t forget to keep fluids in your canine buddy as dogs can get heat stressed easily this time of year.
Above all be safe and have a great hunt.
Good Shooting, Wild Ed
Dove Hunting Zones in Texas
That portion of the state north of a line beginning at the International Bridge south of Fort Hancock; thence north along FM 1088 to State Highway 20; thence west along State Highway 20 to State Highway 148; thence north along State Highway 148 to Interstate Highway 10 at Fort Hancock; thence east along Interstate Highway 10 to Interstate Highway 20; thence northeast along Interstate Highway 20 to Interstate Highway 30 at Fort Worth; thence northeast along Interstate Highway 30 to the Texas-Arkansas state line.
That portion of the state between the North Zone and the South Zone.
That portion of the state south of a line beginning at the International Toll Bridge in Del Rio; thence northeast along U.S. Highway 277 Spur to U.S. Highway 90 in Del Rio; thence east along U.S. Highway 90 to State Loop 1604; thence following Loop 1604 south and east, then north, to Interstate Highway 10; thence east along Interstate Highway 10 to the Texas-Louisiana Line.
Special white-winged dove area
That portion of the state south and west of a line beginning at the International Toll Bridge in Del Rio; thence northeast along U.S. Highway 277 Spur to U.S. Highway 90 in Del Rio, thence east along U.S. Highway 90 to State Loop 1604 in Bexar County; thence south and east along Loop 1604 to Interstate Highway 35; thence south along IH 35 to State Highway 44; thence east along State Highway 44 to State Highway 16 at Freer; thence south along State Highway 16 to FM 649 at Randado; thence south along FM 649 to FM 2686; thence east along FM 2686 to FM 1017 at La Gloria; thence east along FM 1017 to State Highway 186 at Linn; thence east along State Highway 186 to the Mansfield Channel at Port Mansfield; thence east along the Mansfield Channel to the Gulf of Mexico.
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