By Aaron Hepler
The time of year is here, again. Time to gear up for doves! Remembering back to my favorite first hunt, I was decked in some of my Dad’s old army camo with a weapon in hand. The camo was four sizes too big for me but I can vividly remember how pumped I was to be 12 years old and finally hunting.
Many people who talk about hunting in Pennsylvania know two things. First, our hunting tradition runs deep. Second, Pennsylvania typically makes the list every year for top five hunter densities in the US. That being said, Pennsylvania provides a large amounts of public land, leaving plenty of room for seasoned and young hunters alike.
Dove hunting is the perfect way to get a young person involved in our beloved tradition of hunting.
Tips for doves and getting a youngster involved
Access and habitat:
In Pennsylvania, it’s not a difficult task to find a tract of public land littered with food plots and fields. Find a spot with fields that are low or bare. Doves prefer conifer roosts near bare fields. A nearby tractor lane will provide grit that aid doves in digestion. Water is another feature to look for.
Avoid going out too early as doves are most active the last three hours of the evening.
Often the temperature during dove season can be hot and buggy. Lightweight camo or drab colored clothing is crucial to staying cool while fooling a dove’s excellent vision.
Hand me downs are great and I do recall thinking how cool I was wearing Dad’s old army gear. Do, however; ensure comfort.
No need for heavy artillery, a .410 or .20 gauge shotgun will do just fine. Use ammo that will provide the widest margin for error, like 7 ½ shot. It’s a perfect load for doves with more shot per shell and even less recoil. Make sure you have plenty of ammo as the action will generally be hot and heavy. Keep chokes loose to provide a wide shot pattern.
After the shot:
“Give a man a fish and you will feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will eat for life.” Involve new hunters in processing and cooking game. The most popular recipe for doves that everyone love is a dove popper.
- Breast the dove out and cut breast in half. Season with your favorite rub. (Pairs well with smoke flavors)
- Halve and seed a jalapeño pepper or substitute with a sweet pepper for those who don’t like too much spice.
- Coat the inside of the pepper with cream cheese or a slice of cheddar.
- Wrap with bacon and grill until cheese melts and meat reaches medium. A tooth pick can be used without bacon if desired.