By: Tom Claycomb
When the dead of winter hits, our outdoor activities come to a screeching halt. Sure, we have cougar hunting, varmint hunting, snowshoeing, skiing, and ice fishing, but still, things definitely slow down.
Why do you think they schedule all of the big outdoor shows for January and early February? January I’m slammed. I have seminars at the Safari Club International Convention in Reno, the Dallas Safari Club International Convention & Expo, and then the SHOT Show in Las Vegas. Plus all of the Wildgame Feeds (potlucks put on by Churches and Bow clubs, etc. with guest speakers, raffles etc.), which are fun events.
So as waterfowl hunting dies down, bird hunting is done. Dead. Toast. But wait a minute! Before you pick up that phone and call your counselor – there is hope. The caravan isn’t the only thing invading our borders. Eurasian doves are swarming America, too.
To my understanding, these birds were probably released as pets down south, but they quickly migrated up north. There are thousands, if not millions, here in Idaho where I live. For what everyone thought was a southern bird, they didn’t waste any time adapting to northern life. They’re what I would call an agricultural bird. By that I mean that they live and thrive in farming areas.
A Bonanza Hunting Spot
So, if you can get access to some farm ground, bingo! you just hit a bonanza hunting spot. Eurasian doves seem to like to swarm barnyards and feed lots. Let me give you an example.
I met a guy at church the other night. He’s a cowboy and hunter, so of course we hit it off right away. He told me he’d seen close to 500 doves in his corn field. In a hot second, we came up with a battle plan for a dove hunt the next morning.
When I got to his house in the a.m., he said there’d been a bunch gathered at his grand folk’s house right down the road, so we decided we’d hit them there first thing in the morning before they moved out to feed in the fields.
I’d thrown in a few of my Crosman and Benjamin airguns in case we had some setting shots around their farmhouse. And we did. But with the number of doves fluttering around, we quickly unlimbered our shotguns and lined up in the corral. My gosh, doves were everywhere!
We set up some mojo decoys and Lucky Duck clip on decoys to enhance our hunting. I’m always overly optimistic and had thrown in 4-6 boxes of Aquila shotgun shells. But after the first 15 minutes of shooting, I was worried I hadn’t brought enough shells. Doves were coming in from every which way. I wish I had brought my short double barrel instead of my longer auto. Although my auto was empty more often than not.
As is par for course for this year, I missed my fair share of doves, so I could almost put a disclaimer in this article that “No animals were hurt in the making of this article.” Although I did have one direct hit. They were coming in so close many times you had to let them fly away a bit so you wouldn’t blow them up. I shot one that came in close around a shed I was sitting by. It hit him full blast and knocked him 20 yards over the corral fence.
We shot and shot and never had to change locations. It was as good of a dove hunt as I’ve ever had, even compared to some of the dove hunts in South Texas or along the Rio Grande. We never even made it out to the corn field which was to be our second spot to hit.
After a few hours, my buddy sadly said he’d better get back to farming, so we’d better start picking up birds and shells. We had 79 doves and three pigeons, and we’d seen at least two hawks swoop down and carry off doves.
Just because winter has hit doesn’t mean it’s time to sit around the fire in your PJs watching TV. Go Eurasian dove hunting instead. They’re an invasive species, so there is no season and no limit.
Here’s some gear you’ll want to have:
-Shotgun with a modified or maybe even an open cylinder choke. With my auto, I was always running on empty because the shooting was so hot. With your double barrel, you may get frustrated.
-Mojo Dove A Flicker decoys
-Lucky Duck clip-on dove decoys
-Aquila 8 shot
-A piece of camo burlap – useful for laying over a fence for concealment
Dove Poppers Recipe
I love Dove Poppers. They’re easy to make, and your family/friends will love them, too. I breast all of my doves and pigeons. Eurasian dove breast will be larger than the little Mourning dove breast, so you’ll get three slices per breast out of them.
Marinate the breast for 1-4 hours in your favorite marinade. I recommend Balsamic Vinegar dressings and Worcestershire sauce.
Slice onions, green peppers, or jalapeños. Cut bacon strips in half or thirds and wrap around a piece of breast with one or all three of the condiments and pin together with a toothpick.
I cook them one of two ways. They’re great to cook on my Camp Chef pellet grill or in a Lodge cast iron skillet. I don’t want to sizzle them, so I cook them at a medium heat.
Cook twice as many as you think you’ll eat, because they’ll go fast. And leftovers are great. Just throw them in the microwave for a few seconds to heat them up. Happy eating!
Writer’s Note: If you want to go cougar hunting, I met Jamie Newman the other day. She has a pack of hounds and is a guide in Idaho. You can contact her at Houndsmaiden@gmail.com. I hope I can get free to go hunting with her in February.
Tom Claycomb III is a product tester for outdoor manufacturers, hunter, and outdoor writer, writing from Idaho.