Be on your toes if you hunt doves — those things are fast

Heading home from town the other day, I looked out the window of my wife’s 4Runner and noticed something that made me realize why dove hunting is such a challenge.

I was sitting in the passenger seat of my wife’s 4Runner over the weekend as we headed down the county road on our way home. Looking out the window, I noticed two mourning doves flitting along on a parallel course to ours, and as I watched, they’d dip down nearly to the tips of the grass, then instantly flit up 20 feet higher. They kept up their aerial acrobatics, but never went slower than we were going.

I asked Amy, “How fast are we going?” She said we were traveling at 53 miles an hour. Yet those doves were going just as fast as we were, while still darting up, down, and side-to-side. No wonder those winged demons are so hard to hit when you’re hunting them.

The dove season opens Sept. 1, which is still almost two weeks away. There are a bunch of them around right now, but by the time the season opens, most of them will already be headed for Argentina. It’s about 7,000 miles as the crow flies, but apparently, as the dove flies, it’s probably more like 14,000 miles.

I don’t know if the Eurasian collared doves that stick around Wyoming all year fly as fast or are as acrobatic as mourning doves are, but they’re fair game during the season, too. They’re a little bigger than mourning doves, and in my experience, they taste about the same. If you can’t find any mourning doves after the season opens, or if you’re like me and have a hard time connecting with the fast-flying aerial acrobats, maybe you’ll have more luck with the Eurasian collared versions.

One way or another, though, be ready for dove season as soon as it opens. The collared ones generally hang out where you can’t shoot them, and the mourning doves high-tail it for that long trip south. But good luck. After watching those doves fly, I think you’re going to need it.