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Steve Comus – GUN TALK

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Tuesday, July 30, 2019
Patriotic gun wrap
Tuesday, November 12, 2019
Rifle bedding and accuracy go hand in hand

Dove decoys an important part of dove hunt
It’s time to start getting ready for the dove opener coming up Sept. 1, and that means now is when it is right to think about various things that may not have been on the “to do” list in previous seasons. Dove decoys for many hunters fall into this category.

Are decoys necessary for dove success? Not really. But they can help and certainly can’t hurt. Hence, when in doubt, why not?

In recent years I have been using decoys more consistently and am convinced that they have helped bring some birds into range that otherwise would not have been close enough to shoot.

DECOYS AREN’T NECESSARY when hunting doves, but they most certainly will bring more doves into your area than without the decoys, which can be as simple as a few simple rubber dove decoys on a fence to a complicated moving decoy setup or portable “tree” where you can put your decoys.

Whether decoys suck doves in from far away is debatable, but I have seen enough of them change their direction when flying a hundred yards or so away and head toward the decoys to be convinced that absent the decoys, they would have keep flying in a straight line that was not going to put those birds in range.

Granted, the object is to locate on a flight line so that the doves naturally fly right over the shooting spot. But even in places where the doves have established a pretty predictable flight path, there are enough of them that go by just out of range to justify at least attempting to decoy them closer.

The nice thing is that it really doesn’t seem to matter much how the decoys are placed. Just make them look a bit natural and all seems to work well. This means putting them in the branches of bushes or trees in spots that look like where birds might be – open enough for the real doves to see them from distance is about the only hard requirement. If they can be placed in a bush or tree in a way that they also can be seen in silhouette from afar, all the better, but that isn’t always possible.

If there is a fence nearby, put a decoy or two on the top wire. If there is a water puddle close by, place the decoy about three or four inches from the waterline. When doves drink, they spend about as much time about that far from the water as they do actually drinking, so it will look natural to them.

Or, enterprising hunters can take the equivalent of an old TV antenna, stick it in the ground and put a decoy on one or two of the cross-members. Only has to be six to 10 feet tall – just something to afford a landing place for the real birds.

FINDING A TREE like this means there are doves nearby in big numbers, as birds that are coming into or leaving a feeding or watering area frequently land in nearby trees to survey the area prior to committing.

I usually like to use three to six decoys, although more would be no problem. I place at least half of the decoys somewhere in an arc that is about half the distance of the longest shot. That means that whenever a bird is committed to the decoy, it is in range.

Then, I also place single decoys in a similar arc at the farthest distance I feel I can consistently hit them hard enough to bag them. That way, even if I see a passerby between the outer decoys and me, it is in range and time to shoot.

Different people see birds differently, so it is difficult to say out of hand when a dove is in range if it is just flying along. For me, if I can make out its bill clearly and see the eye, it’s time to shoot. If I can’t discern individual wing and tail feathers, it is too far.

For Eurasian collared doves, I depend initially on the different shade of gray, but hold off shooting until I can make out its head clearly. Depending on the angle, it is not always possible to see the black on the back of their necks.

Shoot straight and often. And always be safe.

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Steve Comus is a nationally recognized hunting editor with Safari Club International and a WON Guns and Hunting Guns Editor. His column appears every other week in WON and he can be reached at

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