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Planting Dove Fields


Dove season is on the horizon and its time to get those food plots and fields ready for opening day. Traditionally the best hunting for doves comes over fields specifically planted to draw them in. And farmers and hunters all have their own recipe of what works for them to get the doves in to their fields. But for beginners, this can be a daunting task of learning what to plant to bring in the most birds.

Doves prefer to eat smaller seeds. Seeds such as Milo, Sorghum, Millet, and sunflower are all great choices. Corn is also a preferred planting, but this is more for the camouflage it provides than for the food. More on that in in a bit.

Billy Dukes of the SCDNR says when it comes to doves, it all starts and ends with sunflowers. “Sunflowers are the magnet that brings in the doves and everything else is just to supplement.” When researching what doves eat in areas where sunflowers are present, the large yellow attractants make up roughly 80% of the food doves eat. Second is a mixture of millet, milo, and other grains.

If planting field for doves, you must include sunflowers. Because if you don’t and your neighbor does, he will have all of the birds. It really is that simple. Fast growing sunflowers that produce large heads will attract the most birds. Bit again a mixture is best for all fields, depending on the size of the plot.

Small plots of less than 20 acres and even as small as three to five acres can still benefit from sunflowers and other grains. In plots of around five acres, planting the middle with sunflowers, eight to fifteen rows will work as a great attractant. Lining the edges with milo, millet or sorghum will offset some of the sunflower and provide some variety. Another tactic is to plant the whole area in sunflowers and right before season, harvest a third of the sunflowers. (Read your DNR rules on field manipulation rules and guidelines) Some crop manipulation is legal and others are not. My understanding is that if the manipulation is part of ordinary farming practices then it is legal. In other words it is not ordinary operation to bush hog, or mow sunflowers. But it is normal to harvest them.

Now is also a great time to establish blinds or hiding areas for hunters. Trees in the field are great for shade and concealment. Tall shrubs along the edge, standing sunflowers in the middle. All make great blinds for hunters to hide.

If you are able, planting a plot near a stable water source is also a great combination for bringing in doves. Doves will water two to three times a day, and having a good water source near their feeding area only enhances the allure to feed at your location.

Dove season is the first shooting and some of the best shared hunting experiences available in the south. By starting now, you can ensure yourself a great hunt when opening day rolls around.