A couple weeks ago I passed out a few tips that I thought might be helpful for guys heading into the dove season. Now the opener has come and gone. I’ve been out several times, but the season is still in and a few other things came to me that I wanted to pass on. Watching the boys pop away at ’em reminded me of a few things that I didn’t mention last time.
First of all, use the best shell that you can afford. Many shell manufacturers offer cheap loads at this time of year in an effort to get you to buy more. The problem with these loads is that they contain soft shot (which is cheaper than hard shot) and it doesn’t pattern as well as the better shot. A lot of those “misses” and “feathered” birds that you’re getting are really well-hit birds. They end up as fox food because of sparse, irregular patterns.
I don’t mean to imply that you need high-brass shells or a stiffer charge. The issue isn’t power—it’s consistency. The best loads I’ve ever used for doves are the premium target loads from any of the major manufacturers. They tend to produce nice, even patterns that get the job done. An ounce of shot, or perhaps a tad more, seems about right.
In a similar vein, I think that 7½s work better than any other size of shot. If you use 8s, they don’t seem to hit as hard at the fringes of reasonable range. If you go to larger shot, patterns get sparse.
Here’s another tip. A lot of the guys are using the same improved-cylinder chokes that they use for most everything else. While I’m not one of those that think you’ve got to have a different choke for everything, you probably could use a little more for doves. Doves are tiny little birds that are deceptive, meaning that they’re often farther than you think. Using a little more choke gives you a little more leeway for mis-estimations of range.
Personally, I like to use IC for most upland work but go to modified or even full for doves. I seem to shoot a better average when I do.
Take it with a grain of salt if you feel like it, but more than 60 years of dove shooting from the Deep South to Argentina have taught me a few things. Hopefully you’re smarter than I am and it won’t take you quite that long to figure them out.