If you plan a dove hunting trip, your gun choice isn't the only thing important. Consider other gear you'll need to take along for this exciting hunt.
I use a double barrel side-by-side shotgun for my dove hunting and find an improved cylinder/modified combination works well for most solo or small-group outings. I use a Winchester Model 24 double in 20-gauge for my main gun, but if birds are flying real close, I switch to a 16-gauge Stevens double with open chokes handed down to me by my father. It's a grouse gun, really, but works well on close-in doves.
If you have a single barrel, pump or autoloader, improved cylinder is usually the best choice, but keep a modified screw-in choke tube on hand in case the birds are flying a bit further than you expected. If they are flying real close, a skeet or open bore might be best of all. Any gauge from 12 to 28 will work, with No 7 1/2, 8 or 9 shot.
Extra Gear for Dove Hunts
Besides gun and shells, other gear you should bring on a dove hunt includes a hat with a brim, sunscreen, cooler for drinks and doves, shooting glasses or sunglasses, insect repellent, ear plugs, a folding stool or 10-gallon paint bucket painted a drab color, binoculars and optionally, a few decoys to place in trees or on a fence wire.
Speedy Dove Cleaning
Some hunters simply pluck out the breast of doves, but I prefer to leave the feathers on to improve their flavor and moisture-retention during cooking. Here's the quick cleaning method I use which speeds things up if you have a dozen or more birds to take care of. If you have several hunters you can sub-divide these steps for super-fast cleaning.
- Spread the doves out to cool, then take one at a time and snap the wing bones close to the body. Twist them and they'll come off easily. Do this with all of the doves.
- Pluck off the breast feathers only. Having dry clean hands when you do this makes the chore easier. Do all the birds at the same time.
- Move the birds away from the spot where the discarded feathers are piled up so they won't blow onto the exposed flesh.
- Slip your thumb under the tip of the breast and pull out while pulling away viscera and body of the bird with the other hand. This is the step where you don't want the feathers flying around getting on the exposed meat.
- Place the breasts on a clean paper towel and repeat with the other birds.
- Put dove remains in a plastic bag and dispose of properly.
- Wash the breasts when you get to a sink and remove any stray feathers remaining.
- Wrap the breasts tightly in plastic and then a freezer bag or freezer paper and label the date and contents, or keep in the refrigerator until you're ready to cook them.