Once you’ve found a watering hole—or a field doves are feeding in—Stringham, migratory game bird coordinator for the DWR, says hunters should wear camouflage and place dove decoys in a place where they can be easily seen.
“Hunting doves over decoys is a tactic that’s catching on in Utah,” he says. “Using decoys can be a great way to put the birds right where you want them. I’ve found good success hunting doves this way.”
Stringham says the dove hunt is a great event for new and young hunters. “The areas where doves live are easy to access,” he says, “and the weather on opening day is usually warm and pleasant. Make sure you bring plenty of shotgun shells.”
Stringham says the number of mourning and white-winged doves in Utah is down across much of the state this year. “But I still encourage you to get into the field,” he says. “Even when dove numbers are down, there are still plenty of birds to hunt.”
To find the greatest number of doves, look for fields that have grain in them, with water holes nearby. “Grain fields that have a water hole near them can be dove-hunting hotspots,” Stringham says. Also, doves will fly into these areas before roosting for the night.
Hunters may have good success in southern Utah. “The climate in southern Utah is warmer,” he says, “so the birds tend to stay a little longer in that part of the state.” Doves are speedy, challenging targets, Stringham says. “The hit-to-miss ratio on doves often leans toward the missed side.”
Hunters are advised to report banded birds. If you take a dove that has a leg band on it, report the band number to www.reportband.gov. Because mourning and white-winged doves are migratory birds protected by federal law, hunters need a Harvest Information Program number to hunt them. Getting a HIP number is easy and only takes a few minutes. Just log onto www.uthip.com, and follow the prompts.
Hunters may get more information about mourning doves, white-winged doves and collared-doves, including maps that show where the birds live in Utah, on pages 39, 50 and 51 of the 2018 – 2019 Utah Upland Game and Turkey Guidebook. The free guidebook is available at www.wildlife.utah.gov/guidebooks.