Veteran dove hunters realize the return on investment is perhaps the least in any hunting or fishing venue.
You may have heard it said that dove meat is the most expensive wild game you can eat. When you consider the cost of gasoline, shotgun shells, licenses, clothing, shoes, accessories, and time, that statement is accurate. Still, dove hunting remains one of the most entertaining hunts you can take.
In the sections below, we’ll break down what you need to wear, and why you need to wear it, item by item.
What the Best Dressed Dove Hunters Are Wearing
It all starts with your feet. The best hunt is one that doesn’t end in blisters, a sprained ankle or something worse. Quality footwear is imperative in any hunting situation.
Dove hunting doesn’t require the extreme protection that ice fishing or late-season elk or deer hunting can demand.
Ideally, you’re hunting in the heat of late August. The mornings may be cool, but as the day’s hunt continues, you’ll soon discover that autumn is still a while away.
Keeping your feet cool, is as important as keeping them stable over uneven terrain.
Find a pair of boots that lace up easily, and have ports for sweat and heat to escape from your feat. Wet socks, whether from perspiration or from stepping into a stream, bog or shallow pond will lead to blisters if not accounted for.
Dove hunting is done primarily in dry areas, so waterproof footwear is rarely required, but perspiration is a constant, especially on hot summer afternoons.
Take care of your feet and they’ll take care of you. A good pair of lace-up boots will protect your feet from burrs, cactus, sharp sticks, barbed wire, and that ever-present perspiration, don’t skimp on your footwear.
The universal American men’s fashion statement, a pair of worn, well-fitting blue jeans is often the clothing of choice for most dove hunters.
While jeans work just fine, they’re prone to ripping easily when you encounter the obstacles common on dove hunts.
Dove hunters routinely cross many, perhaps dozens of barbed wire fences in the course of a day’s hunt.
Even when there aren’t fences to contend with, there are always willows with sharp broken stems, thickets full of briars, thorns, branches at odd angles, and all that deadfall laying on the ground that unerringly finds a way to rise up when you step on it and either trip you or rip a hole in your pants leg.
Ripstop fabric or rip-resistant fabric is the best for dove hunting pants. There are dozens of manufacturers offering hundreds of styles of pants for the dove hunter to wear.
But, you don’t want to put on a pair of pants made of something similar to a heavy canvas or you’ll soon regret it as the day heats up.
The best pants are made of lightweight, rip-resistant fabric that allows perspiration to exit while still protecting your legs from the hostile environment found in thickets, clearings, and along weed-infested rural roads.
A good pair of pants keep you protected, and cool, and if they come with zippered pockets it’s a great place to keep your hunting license, pocket knife, and truck keys as you trek across the wilderness.
Sometimes all you need is a t-shirt, especially on those 100+ degree afternoons as you crash through the underbrush looking for likely dove nesting areas. The problem comes with that underbrush.
Unless you have skin like iron, you’re going to get cut, scratched, and irritated, not just by thorns, stickers, and sharp branches, but by some of the more insidious plants that you often find while looking for concentrations of birds.
Poison oak, ivy, and sumac are all at the height of their annual growth during dove season. Just a passing brush with these poisonous plants can ruin a good day of hunting.
The solution is to wear an undershirt designed to wick away sweat, and there are literally hundreds on the market while wearing a rip-resistant, tear-resistant long sleeve shirt.
If you think a long sleeve shirt is just too hot for August dove hunting, then you’ve never seen agricultural workers harvesting melons, cotton, or cabbages in the heat of a Georgia July or a 110+ degree day in the Imperial Valley of California. People who work extensively in the heat always wear long sleeves.
You should too, and we’ll talk about that next, but underneath you need a quality t-shirt.
Long Sleeve Shirt
It’s all about protection. Protection from the heat, from the sun, from poisonous plants you might brush against, and against those annoying thorns, stickers, branches, and the ever-present barbed wire fence you’re sure to encounter as you chase after doves.
A standard hunting shirt works just fine if it’s made of heavy-duty rip and tear-resistant material. Don’t go for a light cotton shirt because you think it’ll be cooler. It will tear on the first thorn you encounter, even on something as small as a wild raspberry plant.
A shirt with at least two traditional pockets works fine, but one with pockets in the sleeve, Velcro, zippered, or snapped pockets is even better.
You can never have enough pockets when you’re out in the field. In conjunction with your pants pockets, you can carry licenses, snacks, tools, and even a few extra shotgun shells if necessary.
The limit on doves in Wyoming is 15, that’s a lot of birds, but their collective weight is only about the same as that of a couple of pheasants or maybe three chukars. Carrying these harvested birds is the job of that game pouch on the back of your vest.
The vest should have a large, waterproof game pouch that allows you to easily place and store harvested birds without worrying about them falling out.
The vest should have elastic shell holders along the bottom of it, just below a pair of pockets placed on each side of the vest.
The elastic shell holders are an absolute necessity. You don’t want to carry a box of shells into the field with you, and you’re going to fire a lot of shotgun shells before you get your 15 bird limit.
The old adage about the cost of dove meat is proven every time you fire and miss a passing bird.
It doesn’t matter what gauge shotgun you use, the shell holding feature is a key. Most vests will accommodate 12 gauge shells just as easily as 16, 20, 28, or .410 shells. That’s why they are elastic.
As you hunt through the day, always pick up your spent shells and place them in those deep pockets just above the shell-holding elastic band.
It’s part of being a responsible hunter, and if you load your own shells, you have cases to take back home and reload.
An added benefit of a hunting vest is that they’re available in a wide variety of colors. The basic tan canvas is the most popular but they also come in a wide expanse of camouflage patterns.
Perhaps the best use of a vest is to meet the blaze orange requirements made by your state game and fish agency.
The square inches and color patterns of blaze orange varies from state to state. Rather than listing the requirements for all 50 states here, the best plan is for you to check your local regulations before you go to the field.
Headgear is important in the field. It adds a layer of protection from the elements that pants, shirt, and vest do, only for your head. A blaze orange hat can often meet the state requirements for hunter safety, but once again, check your local regulations.
Later in the season, when the temperature drops, a wool cap is a great addition, but you don’t need that when the blazing sun rolls past the 90-degree mark and continues climbing.
A hat gives you an edge in shooting on sunny days, shading your eyes from the sun at midday, and especially as the sun nears the horizon in the late afternoon.
The final piece of the fashion puzzle is a good pair of sunglasses. They reduce glare, relieve strain on your eyes, and if you target shoot while wearing them, they can be a great aid in accuracy on those quick flighty doves.
Some claim its style, but it’s really utility when it comes to wearing the right clothes for a dove hunt. Protecting yourself from the hazards of the natural world, while hunting safely and following the regulations are all part of the wardrobe of a well-equipped hunter.