Doves are small fast-moving targets. This means you will need a small pellet and a wide spread. You also don’t want to obliterate the meat.
To achieve this the best choke size will be an improved cylinder or modified choke. However, it’s worth noting that you may be using different chokes depending on the time of the season.
Best Choke for Dove Hunting
As mentioned above, there are really two choke sizes that are best for dove hunting.
But as you know there are many variables. What are you hunting over, early season or late season, shot size, weather, dove hunting only, or a mixed bag.
All of these things can change what type of Choke you should use.
If you only had one choice of Choke for doves, it would be difficult to choose anything than an improved cylinder.
Unlike a choke for rabbits or squirrels where most hunters would go straight for a modified choke, doves need a larger pattern and maybe a smaller pellet.
This is why I would recommend the improved cylinder as the best all-around choke for doves.
It’s slightly tighter than a skeet choke allowing for some further reaching late-season shots.
Yet it is still open enough for close-up early season shots.
If you are primarily hunting late-season doves at 30-40 yards then I would be looking at using a modified choke.
It’s considerably more constricted than the improved cylinder but not so much that your missing everything.
A modified choke has a constriction of .020 and 60% pellet placement inside 30 inches at 40 yards.
This is still quite a large enough 40-yard spread for small targets like doves.
For early-season doves, I would choose to go with a skeet choke. It’s a much better speed than an improved cylinder for early season but still offers some constriction.
I find the skeet choke offers the best spread for shots up to 25yards or so. Further than that, I would strongly consider moving to a modified choke at least.
Although the skeet choke is obviously popular amongst clay pigeon shooters, don’t be dismayed by the name.
I’ve used this choke successfully for rabbit hunting. Often if I am hunting a mixed bag upland I will choose a skeet choke.
I find the best setup with a skeet choke is with a double-barrel shotgun. I put the skeet choke in the first barrel and a modified or improved cylinder in the second barrel.
For early-season doves, a skeet and an improved cylinder would be a great combo.
If you have a good field of birds it’s possible to get away with no choke. Think of some of the hunting they have down in Argentina.
In these types of fields I would actually recommend forgoing a choke and just going open.
With that being said you don’t have to go all the way to Argentina to shoot an open choke.
There are plenty of times you could get a good bag with an open choke here.
Obviously, you’re not going to be taking 40-yard shots with an open choke, but I still think you could do well out to 25 yards.
The difference between a skeet and an open choke at 25 yards is 5 percent.
So if you are a newer hunter or have a little less confidence, one could argue that the best choke is no choke or open and the best distance is out to 25 yards.
Early season vs Late Season Chokes
Choosing your choke for doves is really broken up into two parts early season and late season.
This is because does are much closer earlier in the year than later in the year.
Outside of this knowledge, choosing the right choke will always be a matter of the situation.
For most early-season hunting you won’t need more than an improved cylinder.
In many cases, I shot a whole early dove season with only a skeet choke.
In late season the doves are getting a little further out. Generally, for late-season I will swap out the skeet choke for an improved cylinder or modified.
However, I avoid using a modified choke in the early season. I feel it’s too much choke for such a small bird, and even with a small load, it can do a lot of meat damage.
Even in the late season if a dove is too close I let it get out to distance if I only have a modified choke.
Chokes and Distances for Doves
|15 yards||Open and Skeet|
|15 – 25 yards||Skeet and Improved Cylinder|
|25 – 30 yards||Improved Cylinder|
|30 – 40 yards||Modified|
Without a doubt, the best all-around chokes for doves are the modified and improved cylinder.
However, it really varies according to the conditions. In some cases, the best setup would be a double-barrel with a skeet in one barrel and an improved cylinder or modified in the other.