Where to hunt
Look for areas that have an abundance of small grains and seeds with relatively bare ground. Recently harvested grain fields (oats, wheat, rye, etc.) are good areas, as are freshly planted grain fields. Other popular food sources are fields of sunflowers, canola, beans and even patches of ragweed or foxtail with relatively open ground. Sources of water need open ground where doves can land and walk to the edge to drink. Ponds ringed by high vegetation are less attractive to doves than are cattle ponds or even mud puddles.
There are three general dove hunting techniques:
- Find a flight pattern that the doves are following between feeding/watering and roosting areas, and set up for pass shooting.
- Set up decoys near a food, water or roosting site and attract doves to your shooting location. Place decoys on branches of dead trees, posts or on fence wires.
- Walk along treelines adjacent to feeding and watering areas and flush birds.
Where not to hunt
Do not hunt in metropolitan or suburban areas closed to the discharge of firearms. Hunting within city limits or shooting within 500 feet of any buildings occupied by humans or livestock without written permission of the owner is not allowed. Shooting at birds resting on powerlines is unethical and could cause damage to powerline equipment that could subject you to civil or criminal actions. Cruising country roads and shooting at doves near farmsteads, farm outbuildings, or from the road or rights-of-way are also discouraged. You can help reflect a good image for dove hunters in Minnesota by hunting away from roads and in good habitat on public lands or on private lands where you have permission.
Respect private property: Ask first!
Since mourning dove habitat is closely tied to agriculture, many dove hunting opportunities will occur on private land. Minnesota's trespassing law does not require landowners to post agricultural lands, so you must always get permission before hunting private farmlands. Once you have permission, be sure to ask the landowner about the presence of livestock and their preferences about shooting near livestock. In general, use common sense to avoid spooking cattle or other livestock with gunfire.
Non-toxic shot is required on federal lands, and is suggested for hunting on other lands. Several companies produce non-toxic dove loads. Using non-toxic shot is a good way for dove hunters to reduce the deposition of lead in our environment.
The baiting law for doves is different than for waterfowl. You should consult the DNR Hunting Regulations Handbook for more details. In general, hunting is allowed when the crop is: standing; harvested using standard agricultural practices; or planted using standard agricultural practices. For dove hunting, crops may be manipulated by: mowing; shredding; discing; rolling; chopping; trampling; flattening or burning. Hunting waterfowl over such manipulated crops would constitute baiting. Distributing or scattering seeds or grains after removal from, or storage on, the field where it was grown is also not allowed for doves and other migratory birds.