Labor Day is quickly approaching which is commonly associated with opening day of dove season in North Carolina. I have covered some of the basic biology of the mourning dove along with a few hunting strategies that can be used to help reach your bag limit in a few days.
The mourning dove is a migratory game bird species. They construct their nests in various places but are mostly found in shrubby trees, vines, coniferous and deciduous trees. Occasionally they will nest on the ground but this is generally done in the spring before the vegetation on the forest floor becomes dense. Doves will have multiple broods a year. Every 30-40 days is not uncommon. The eggs are easily recognizable by their pale white color. There are typically 2-3 eggs per nest. Once hatched the nestlings will fledge, leaving the nest in approximately 14 days. Unlike many other birds doves prefer to forage on bare soil and consume primarily seeds. In North Carolina, soybeans, sunflowers, millet, and sorghum are prime food sources to seek when locating doves.
When hunting doves it is ideal to set up along a wooded edge, under an isolated tree, or in tall weeds along a ditch bank. The doves move towards open fields shortly after sunrise to feed and are easily ambushed by hunters set up in the aforementioned locations. During the middle of the day and into the afternoon doves are usually situated in wooded, shady areas but will once again fly out into the fields to feed in the evening when the temperatures drop. Decoys can be used when hunting and they are commonly attached to small trees and shrubs with a clothespin-like attachment. When setting up decoys it is important to orient them away from your hunting location in a fashion that allow you to shoot at a quartering to or broadside manner. When placing the dove decoys right beside your set up you are drawing the doves in directly to you, offering difficult shots, therefore this should be avoided if at all possible. Be sure to check the North Carolina game laws regarding bag limits, shooting hours, acceptable hunting practices, and shot shell limitations.
Hopefully the information and tips provided will be of some help when setting up and harvesting doves. While hunting season is associated with cooler weather, it can be relativity warm this time of year so be sure to keep yourself hydrated, along with your four-legged hunting buddy, provided you have one. Be safe and have fun!