How To Attract Doves
If you like to dove hunt and want some great tips, then keep reading. If dove hunting is not your thing, I suggest the Back button or the Red X at the top of your browser window.
I’m going to reference some steps and tips I suggest you take if you want to get lots of doves coming to a field for hunting season. I’m by no means an expert, but what a friend of mine – Clay – and I did this year worked exceptionally well and we bagged 5 times as many doves this year over last year while hunting the same fields.
This is what we did:
Step 1 – Evaluate, Disc, and Wait – Early March
Evaluate the soil in your field. Yes, do this first because it matters a lot for step 2 and is actually the basis for success on down the line. If you don’t have quality soil, whatever you’re planting won’t grow and if there is nothing for doves to eat – there won’t be any doves for you to eat either.
In early March, disc your field. Yes, preparing this early matters for reasons to come. Disc it until it’s dust, I mean disc it and disc it and disc it. Then disc it again.
After discing, wait about 2-3 weeks. That lets as much nitrogen as possible settle into the soil so whatever you plant can grow a strong root bed. Think of what greens keepers do to take care of a football field (aerate, fertilize, plant, water, etc) and apply those principles to your field.
Step 2 – Fertilize – Early April
At the beginning of April, we put out Black Cow but I’m sure any type of organic compost fertilizer will help add the much needed and helpful natural material to the soil. The soil for the primary field was really acidic and had a lot of clay in it so by discing it so thoroughly we basically obliterated all possible organic material into fertilizer, then added some additional fertilizer to it.
Disc your organic fertilizer into your field. You don’t have to be as thorough as before, just mix it in to the first 6-12 inches of the soil. Then, wait until May. This allows for the nutrients you’ve put into the soil to get absorbed really well.
Step 3 – Plant and Fertilize – Early May
Again, the soil was really acidic so we added fertilizer (the artificial pellet kind) to the field and planted the day before the forecast called for several days of rain. I’ve read of varying fertilizers to use but we put out something along the lines of (16-4-8 though I’m sure any artificial fertilizer in the sub 20 range like 13-13-13 would work well). Again, the soil we were working with needed nutrients added to it. Just be sure you don’t put out too much of this kind of fertilizer because you’ll poison the soil and have burned spots when you plant.
At the beginning of May, we planted brown top millet because when mature it produces a LOT of seeds and doves love it. Think about it, if you could eat all the cupcakes and cookies and didn’t have to worry about gaining weight or cavities, how many would you eat? That’s what millet is to doves – unlimited favorite food. It takes about 60 days or so for millet to take, grow, and mature so you really want to time your planting with dove season. You want your field to be producing about 60 days before the season starts. This way your millet can take, grow, mature, drop seeds before the season starts so that doves can find your field and the food you’re growing for them and keep coming back to the field.
Millet is a grass that’s often used to control run-off areas and it does not need to be planted very deep – as in, less than ½ inch of soil – very shallow. We just used a rotary spreader to put out our fertilizer and seed, then drug a heavy metal grate behind Clay’s Polaris Ranger which covered the seeds and mixed the seeds into the soil without burying them too deep.
Step 4 – Cut a Tree Down – May
That’s right, cut a tree down.
Find a tree that’s narrow in diameter (about 6-8 inches) and cut it down – then leave it alone. The reason is you want all the leaves to die and fall off so you can set the dead tree back upright on the edge of your field. (see step 5)
Step 5 – Set Your Tree – June/July
Just take a post-hole digger, dig a hole on the edge of your field where you want doves to land, and put your leafless tree in the hole. Doves prefer landing on a dead tree as opposed to a tree with leaves on it so if you provide them with a favorite landing spot next to the millet buffet, you’ve got a greater chance at taking more doves.
Just prior to hunting this field, I saw 20+ doves in our dove tree almost breaking the tree in half – literally. I recommend this idea to anyone that wants to attract and hunt doves. I also recommend picking a tree with limbs low enough to clip on dove decoys, but doesn’t have too many limbs so that the tree really looks dead and helpless. Doves prefer landing and roosting in dead trees over trees with leaves on their limbs.
At this point you’ve done everything you can to get doves to come to your field. You’ve provided them food – lots of it – and their favorite type of landing spot. If they don’t show up now, then you’re field simply doesn’t have doves near it. They’re migratory birds, so they might not be to your field yet or are simply moving someplace else. That’s why they call it “hunting” and not “shooting.”
Another tip, Clay would also bush hog around the field regularly so it would appear to doves that the field was being tended to regularly, increasing the likelihood of them coming around. It worked. It worked well.
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