Dove hunting can mean a great deal of things to those who have spent time in a prepared field over the years in pursuit of this small, grey bird. Retrieving dogs are in play, perhaps football updates on your smartphone, and some of the best opportunities of the year to give a shout out to someone who made a good shot. Making these scenarios come to life requires a commitment of time, money and land management knowledge - to first attract doves to your field and then have them imprint so they keep making annual return visits.
What makes a dove field draw doves like a magnet? Certainly location has a great deal to do with it, a generous food source is also necessary, but sometimes it takes smaller land management tweaks along the way to improve your dove field. Over time, experienced land managers recognize when the field needs some disking, mowing or burning in order to tune it up. Then, it takes follow-up scouting with “boots on the ground” after each field manipulation to better understand what is effective for your field. Larger fields of 15 acres or more, in agricultural production areas that produce peanuts, wheat or corn likely already attract doves, and the task is simply how to congregate them into a small enough area to hunt. These larger types of areas are more likely to yield multiple hunts over the course of the hunting season and can usually accommodate more hunters. Contacts with these farming operations are cultivated over time by discerning dove hunters.
Smaller fields of five acres or less have a limited amount of food to offer, but they can also be hotspots that yield one or two very good hunts each fall. An area as small as three acres, perhaps along a powerline right-of-way could be an option for small acreage landowners who would like to try and attract some doves, but this smaller zone might only support one or two guns during a hunt. The point is that if you want to try and attract doves then let your conscience be your guide.
Like so many other habitat management objectives, a dove field needs a commitment of multiple years in order to derive consistent success. A well-managed dove field can provide benefits to all wildlife, before, during and after the hunting season. When you begin to notice numerous species of wildlife utilizing your dove field all year long, that’s the true reward for all your efforts.