Dove hunting in Indiana is a favorite hunting activity for good reason: it is exciting, economical, and access to prime dove hunting ground within the state is relatively easy to find.
Dove hunting does not require much equipment or years of expertise to have a successful day afield, allowing hunters with varying skill levels to enjoy an exciting day of wing shooting.
I have been dove hunting for over a decade in West Central Indiana, where the land is flat and the doves are plentiful each fall. During that time, I’ve learned that every successful hunt starts off with scouting and preparation so I’ll share a few lessons learned in the dove fields over those years.
A few weeks before the season opener here in Indiana (September 1st), you will find me cruising the back roads of my hunting territory looking for dove hunting hot spots. The number-one thing I am looking for are recently harvested crop fields that serve as a banquet hall for the birds. The most common food sources in Indiana include corn, soybean, and wheat fields.
In my opinion, smaller harvested fields are a better bet for a successful hunt. Hunting a 100-acre cornfield that has only five acres harvested, rather than one that is completely picked, can increase your odds significantly. This is because a partially harvested field will confine more doves into a smaller area. In turn, this significantly increases the likelihood of doves seeing and committing into your decoy set up.
After finding a food source, I make a game plan on how to hunt in the field. I like to position myself as close as possible to a “perch” or some other type of landmark that doves use as guides to get from point A to point B. The landmark could be a single tree in the middle of a field, a wind break, or a row of power lines.
I use a pop-up blind chair or simply lie on the ground on a foam cushion near the landmark the doves are utilizing. Because laying flat on the ground can limit mobility and your line of sight, I use two electronic dove decoys to help alter the odds. Since I am right handed, I set one decoy at approximately 10 o’clock and one at 12 o’clock from my position; this helps draw doves to the left side of my body, making it easier to swing the shotgun whether lying on my backside or sitting down.
Utilizing two decoys helps take the attention off of the hunter and funnel the doves into the shooting lane. When positioning yourself in the field, try to set up with the sun at your back so the morning or evening sun doesn’t create blind spots in your field of view.
When the field is partially harvested, I also like to use a “pop up” hunting method. This is an exciting and challenging dove hunting technique when the conditions are right. If you have a general idea of where the birds have been landing or watched a single bird land in the field, then you can attempt to get within shotgun range and flush them. The trick to this style of hunting is to utilize cover and the sun to your advantage to get close enough to ambush unsuspecting birds. Doves are skittish so getting within range can be a real challenge. It helps if the day is windy and the sun is at your back. Flushing a flock of doves, scattering erratically every which way, will really get your blood pumping. Sometimes the real challenge can be picking out which dove you want to take.
For hunting equipment, I like to keep things simple with less weight, bulk and hassle. A small camouflage bag slung over one shoulder will typically include a small thermos of coffee (extra strong), 50 shells (6 or 7 ½ shot), and 2 electronic decoys with stakes. In my other hand is a 5 gallon bucket outfitted with a swivel seat and, of course, shotgun. My advice to new hunters and old alike is to choose a gun that fits you well and feels comfortable in your hands. The faster you can get the gun up to your shoulder, the more likely chance you will have on getting a bead on the bird. Doves fly erratically and fast, often making you ponder your own shooting abilities; I miss more than I hit on a good day.
Chances are, you will likewise miss many of the feathered missiles but with a little scouting and a game plan, you will be in for a memorable Hoosier-land dove hunt.