With the beginning of dove season just around the corner (September 1), we decided to get you going with some of the latest guns, gear, and ammo for a successful hunt. Many people enjoy dove hunting because of the inherent challenge (hitting such a small target moving at that distance is harder than some people believe) and delicious meat. With the proper equipment and skills, it can be very rewarding. Let’s get ready to gear up for dove season!
Shotguns for Dove Hunting
Looking for a new scattergun to boost your excitement this season? First, you’ll need to decide the shotgun type you are interested in. Semi-auto, over/under, side by side, and pump actions are the most common. Even a simple break-action single-shot shotgun will do — especially if you don’t want to make a large investment. Take a look at popular brands such as CZ, TriStar, Mossberg, Remington, Weatherby, and Browning. Barrel length (typically 28 inches), gauge (typically 12), length of pull, and overall balance for the swing are all factors you’ll want to consider.
As far as semi-autos, Beretta and Benelli are at the top of the pack. I recommend the Beretta A300 Ultima, because it doesn’t command as high of a price and performs great for most. It features interchangeable Beretta MobilChoke chokes, which let you make adjustments (as needed) in the field. Additionally, in order to mitigate recoil and enhance performance, the A300 uses a synthetic stock with “Kick-Off Plus” technology.
Two elastomer dampeners with return springs mitigate the first recoil peak, reducing perceived recoil by 40%, while a third elastomer dampener located near the stock bolt absorbs the impact of the slide against the stock, reducing the second recoil peak, muzzle jump, and vibrations caused by movement of the bolt. For out-of-the-box performance, you can’t beat the Beretta.
For a solid budget semi-auto shotgun, the Tristar Raptor is basically a Beretta clone. Guns don’t care where they’re made, and this Turkish shotgun runs well for about half the price. No, it doesn’t feature the smooth machining and superior fitment of the original Beretta, but for a working gun, who cares? The Raptor comes standard with a fiber-optic front sight and ventilated buttpad. Further, it uses the Beretta chokes with improved cylinder, modified, and full included.
If an over/under shotgun is more your thing, take a look at some great options from Browning. The Browning Cynergy Wicked Wing looks as good as it performs. The burnt bronze cerakote and camo furniture makes an excellent and unique combination. Using an innovative reverse-striker ignition system and striker-based mechanical trigger, the Cynergy offers a crisp trigger pull, faster lock times, and less overtravel.
The balance of the Cynergy makes it a natural pointer. The vent-ribbed barrels have 3.5-inch chrome-lined chambers to enhance performance and corrosion resistance. A tang safety and barrel selector allow you to choose which barrel shoots first. The weather-resistant composite stock has textured grip panels, adjustable length of pull, and an adjustable comb. With its unique design, striking looks, and precision engineering, the Browning Cynergy Wicked Wing is the over/under for the 21st century hunter.
Dickinson Arms has a well established reputation for producing fantastic shotguns at an affordable price. The Greenwing is a modern classic O/U shotgun that will be right at home in any skeet field or upland hunt. It has 28-inch barrels with 3-inch chambers and accepts the Beretta choke system. The receiver is in-the-white with an elegantly laser-engraved silver finish matched to blued barrels and a beautiful walnut stock. The Dickinson Greenwing is far more than you’d expect from an entry-level shotgun for those who think a high-quality firearm shouldn’t have to cost a fortune.
Side-by-side (SxS) shotguns are similar to over/unders, but point and balance a little different. For one of the finest side-by-side shotguns, take a look at the Bobwhite from CZ. With the look and feel of a classic English double, the CZ Bobwhite G2 All-Terrain features a straight walnut stock fitted to a steel receiver and barrel set with an OD green cerakote finish, making it almost impervious to the elements. This makes for an ideal shotgun for waterfowl and upland game bird hunting.
The premier feature of the All-Terrain series is the addition of rare-earth magnets in the extractors and ejectors. This prevents shells from accidentally dropping from the chambers while bending over with an open action. Dual triggers operate the barrels independently. Five chokes let you match your pattern to the hunt. Classic lines with modern enhancements make the Bobwhite the next shotgun you need for your collection.
Charles Daly is proud to offer a variety of beautiful side by side break action shotguns in the form of the 500 series. The dual steel barrels accept Beretta choke tubes to tackle a wide variety of prey with different shotshell loads. The 500 Field sports a checkered walnut stock and forend that offer a comfortable and secure platform, and the furniture is nicely complimented by the 500 Field’s matte black finish. This is great SxS for those just dipping their toes into dove hunting.
Pump-actions are popular due to their excellent reliability and good ammunition capacity. The Remington 870 Fieldmaster has been serving well for decades. Just like every other 870 shotgun, its receiver is milled from a solid billet of steel to deliver strength and reliability. It is drilled and tapped for the addition of optics, and comes standard with a white bead front sight.
New and improved twin action bars are made to resist binding and twisting, so your next round always cycles smoothly when the birds fly over. The 870 Fieldmaster accepts standard Remington pattern choke tubes and comes with, improved-cylinder, modified, and full. With a no-frills black laminate stock, and forend paired with a non-reflective matte black metalwork finish, the 870 Fieldmaster Synthetic looks as smooth as it operates.
The Hatfield PAS 12 is a reliable traditional pump-action shotgun you can count on. The action is smooth and effortless with quick cycling and a rock-solid lockup. Simple and effective, you can turn to a pump-action for any situation, whether it’s bird, beast, or home protection. You can expect the PAS 12 to flawlessly cycle commercial 2.75 and 3-inch magnum shells. It has a 28-inch vent rib barrel that accepts a Beretta choke thread pattern and features a fiber-optic front sight.
If you’re just starting off and trying it out, see if you can borrow one from a friend while they take you out and show you the ropes. Or, if you already own a shotgun for home defense, such as the Mossberg 500 or Remington 870, buying a longer barrel is inexpensive.
So, what about the ammo? A lot of people ask, “What is the best dove load?” The answer is simpler than most expect. Doves aren’t anything crazy, so they don’t require much to bring them down. The real key to a successful dove hunt is patience and getting good hits, so knowing your pattern is crucial.
Most people use a 12-gauge with a 3-inch shell and #7½ shot. However, the switch over to 20-gauge is becoming more common for sport and meat preservation. A 20-gauge does require more skill to get good hits. This can be more fun for a seasoned hunter, but frustrating for a newbie. As a general rule of thumb, the lighter load you can get away with, the better your meal will look on the plate.
It’s not all guns and ammo, there are some accessories that will also come in handy. Good cover and camo gear is important to obscure your presence. If the doves see you, they will veer off and avoid your area. Light, long-sleeve shirt and pants will help shade your skin from the sun and keep you cooler, as well as protecting you from bugs and branches.
Thick boots are handy for protection from the elements and snakes. They should be thick and waterproof with a comfortable sole. You may also want to consider bringing a folding chair or stool, because you’ll likely be waiting a while.
A hunting vest or shell carrier will help keep you organized and carry everything you need. You don’t want to be fumbling around looking for another shell while your dinner flies overhead. Practice your quick reloads, especially if you plan on using a double-barrel or single-shot shotgun. Further, a dove belt is a great way to carry and hold some gear and your game. Of course, you’ll need your typical firearm safety gear and eye/ear protection.
Whether this is your first year out or you’re a seasoned veteran, this gear is sure to get you going for a successful dove hunting season. Dove hunting is as challenging and rewarding as it is delicious. So, get out there and be sure to be safe and have some fun.
Do you have any tips or recommended gear for dove season? Share them in the Comment section.