Most hunters concentrate on areas where the doves feed.
Their diet is almost exclusively seeds. Weed and grass seeds are
supplemented by waste grain from farming operations. Having feet
that are designed for perching, not scratching, they look for their
food on standing plants or on the surface of the soil. While some
seeds may seem to be preferred at a given time, the dove is primarily
a bird that takes advantage of the opportunity of the present day,
and they will change their feeding location frequently.
Doves typically need to have two visits to water daily. During wet periods, rain puddles and heavy dew may , but they will
go to suffice streams or ponds for water. The best watering locations will
include stretches of mud flats or sandbars where the birds can sit
in the open to get water with no ambush cover for ground-based
Preferred shelter for doves is the canopy of the forest. The majority
of the nests will be found here. However, in some locations,
they may be found as ground nesters where they are vulnerable to
more predators. In the natural world, doves are the prey of many
animals from hawks that catch them in flight , to snakes (primarily
raiders of nests), and housecats that have gone wild.
While the mourning dove is primarily a migratory species, some
individuals may be less inclined to migrate from the south during
the spring or to the south in fall. Normally, they begin to gather
in flocks during late summer and most of the flock departs to the
south with the first cold weather. The failure to migrate south in fall
creates problems during severe winters, as the birds do not have
enough fat reserves to survive repeated cold days, and they can not
scratch through snow to find food.
Check Field for Baiting
It is the hunter’s responsibility to follow the law. Review the laws
on baiting and make certain the
field you are hunting has not been
baited. If you have questions, call the Kentucky Department of Fish
and Wildlife first, not after the hunt.
Food plots, with small areas of seed producing grains and
grasses, will attract doves. Many landowners cooperate with the
Department to establish dove fi elds and open them to the public.
For private land that is available for these hunts, contact the Department
One method that works is to mow the field in strips. Leave
some plants, such as sunflowers, stand while mowing grasses,
grains, etc. Doves will feed in the entire area, and downed birds are
much easier to find in the mowed areas.
Shoot only High Birds
Dove shoots typically have several hunters shooting over a
small area. By shooting only the high birds, incidents will be avoided.
These high flyers also offer the most challenging shots for the
Use a Retriever
Ethical hunters strive to retrieve every bird. When the birds are
flying in large flocks the hunter may be able to down more than
one bird at a time. A good retriever will assist the hunter in finding
crippled and dead birds. It is recommended that the birds be
retrieved as soon as there is an opportunity. They can then be laid
in the shade to cool, plus an accurate count toward the limit can be
Most hunters report that they use only the breast of the dove.
They simply split the skin on the breast, peal it back and cut the
breast out of the bird. Some hunters prefer to pick (or pluck) the
feathers off the complete bird and eat wings, legs and breasts. To
remove the entrails from a picked bird, it is recommended to split their back for easy access to the small body cavity. Birds that have
been picked may either be cooked whole or in halves.
Doves do not need to be cleaned in the field, as their body
heat is apparently lost due to the small size of the body. However,
if you prefer to pick them, it can be done during a time when doves
are not flying. Cutting out the breast or removing entrails is usually
done after the shooting is complete and the gun will no longer be
handled. If birds are cleaned in the field it is simple courtesy to the
landowner to either bury or carry out the feathers and entrails. As
with all game, carefully remove all shot before freezing or preparing
your doves. To freeze them, use the same technique described in
Most hunters recommend wrapping dove breast in bacon,
doused with different marinades and broiling them. Here are some
Dove Breasts Stroganoff
Arnold Mitchell, Retired Commissioner,
Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources
- 12 Dove breasts
- 1 Medium onion, diced
- 1 Four ounce can of mushrooms
- 2 tsps kitchen bouquet
- 1⁄2 Cup sauterne
- 1 Cup sour Cream
- 1 can condensed cream of celery soup
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place breasts in large baking dish.
Do not crowd them. Saute onion in skillet and add remaining ingredients
to the onions except the sour cream. Mix the spiced onions
and mushrooms and pour over birds in baking dish. Cover dish
lightly and bake for 1 hour, turning breasts occasionally. Add sour
cream and stir. Bake uncovered for 20 minutes. Serve over rice.
(Brown rice or mixture of white and wild rice is especially good.)
(Suggested in “The Mourning Dove”, John Madson, Winchester Press,
- 1⁄2 Cup chopped green onions
- 11⁄2 Cup of water 1 Cup of Sherry
- 1⁄4 cup of chopped parsley
Season the doves in salt and pepper and roll them in fl our.
Place them in oil in a heavy roaster and bake at 400 degrees until
brown. Add the onions, water and sherry. Cover and cook until tender.
Baste with sherry. Add parsley to the gravy just before serving.
Serves 8-12 people.