Dove Hunting 101: From the Cornfield to the Kitchen

Flying targets are very difficult for most people, and pigeons are some of the most challenging of all. With that in mind, let’s take a few minutes to make sure your shots count this year in the pigeon field. The fundamentals of shooting a shotgun are vital to becoming a successful pigeon hunter, as there are many things that contribute to hitting your target. You must avoid mental breakdowns and learn to prevent your mind from getting in the way of your fundamentals. In this article we will see in depth what those fundamentals are.

Your stance when firing a shotgun should be different than when firing other weapons. Foot placement is critical to having smooth movement when taking a photo. For right-handed shooters, stand with your left foot in front of your right, at or just below shoulder height. Shift your weight slightly toward your front foot to help prepare for the shotgun’s recoil.

Whether the bird is coming directly at you or away from you, this is the perfect pose. Unfortunately, in the real world, birds come at you from every possible angle. Remember to move your feet and open your shoulders in the direction the bird is coming from. By doing this, you will gain a larger kill zone and have a smoother swing. For left-handed shooters, the stance is the exact opposite.

Remember, if you pull the trigger with your right hand, your right foot goes back and if you pull the trigger with your left hand, your left foot goes back. Good posture and footwork are the first steps to accurately firing a shotgun.

It is inevitable that during a pigeon hunt there will be times when your posture is incorrect due to the pigeons surprising you. They will come from all angles and sometimes you won’t see them until you are already behind the eight ball. Alright. If you have time to fix your feet, do it. In the moments when he doesn’t, his other mechanics will be more critical to making the shot.


dove in flight

This is simply how you place the shotgun against your shoulder and prepare to shoot the bird. Posture and mounting go hand in hand, and are performed almost simultaneously, especially in pigeon hunting. The butt of the shotgun goes in your shoulder pocket slightly above the pectoral muscle.

Keep it very tight as this will limit the amount of bruising from recoil. Tilt your head slightly so your eyes are looking down the barrel of the shotgun. The top of the butt should touch the side of the jaw. Your free hand (the one not pulling the trigger) holds the front of the gun.

Again, it’s easy to get a good mount when target shooting, but when hunting pigeons it’s very easy to get a bad mount when you’re in a hurry to shoot. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve ended up with a bruised cheekbone or shoulder from a bad mount. Doing this dramatically increases the difficulty of the shot.

When you start shooting, hitting the mount ensures that you are looking at the bird from the correct perspective and that the barrel is at the correct angle, which in turn increases accuracy and consistency. The bottom line? It’s worth the extra fraction of a second to get it right.

One would think this is self explanatory. Most gunsmiths claim to shoot with both eyes open. Unlike rifles and pistols, where you rarely shoot at a moving target, all of your pigeon shots will move. I’m going to give you what some would call bad advice, but it works for me. I close one eye against the shots coming from the front, whether they are coming or going towards me. These shots require little movement of the barrel and usually require a direct shot at the bird, so basically point and shoot. That’s why I close one eye.

However, I admit that these types of shots are very rare when pigeon hunting. When I do cross shots (and everything else), I keep both eyes open. I find with one eye closed on a cross shot I’m almost always behind the bird. A good way to find out what works best for you is to shoot.

Fire one round with both eyes open at all stations, then close one eye at all stations and assess your successes and failures. Whatever you decide works best, don’t change it. Consistency is key, always do the same thing.

Imagine, you have seen a bird, your feet are on the right foot, you have shouldered your gun and your eyes are fixed; now all you have to do is shoot, right? Wrong. What you have to do is hit your swing. Here the initial speed and finding the correct line is vital and it is different in practically every shot.

If a pigeon is crossing but moving away, its exit speed will be slower than a pigeon that has just crossed. Finding the correct line simply means following the line the pigeon is on. The last component of your swing is your follow through.

Just like any good golfer, basketball player, or bowler, you need to follow your shot. Don’t stop at the target. Keep your swing and line even after you shoot. Doing this will prevent you from stopping on the target and shooting behind it.

The mechanics of your swing is something to practice; Again, shooting clay is a great way to do this. It seems that firing a shotgun involves many things, but all of these things happen in the blink of an eye. Practice practice practice.

There are tons of articles on the different types of shooters, but the most important thing is to find out what works for you and stay consistent. The last thing you want to do is try to change your form in the middle of a hunt. Don’t let negativity set in; it can destroy everything you’ve ever practiced and turn a fun time into an aggravating experience. Stick to your fundamentals, be consistent, and always have fun.

meat preservation
Now that you know how to hit pigeon, let’s quickly take a look at how to prepare them for the table. Properly grooming any wild game or wild birds is an easy process if care is taken from start to finish. A great pigeon meal begins in the field, as soon as you shoot the birds. A pigeon hunt in early September can be quite a hot event. I have hunted pigeons when the temperature was above 90 degrees. It is very important to take care of your birds quickly in high temperatures.

Note that I am not suggesting that you stop shooting after every couple of birds to clean them up. However, I recommend that you start a cooling process on your pigeon as soon as possible. The best idea is to take a small cooler with ice to the field. Not only will this give you a source for a cold drink during your hunt, but it will also allow you to place your birds in a plastic bag and put them on ice almost immediately. This simple step in the field will help preserve the meat’s natural flavor and tenderness.

When you are done hunting and cleaning your pigeon, put the chests back on ice as soon as you are done. Make sure the sinuses are clean and flushed of blood or feathers. Also remember to label your bag of pigeons with your name and the date you shot them before putting them in the freezer.

Author with pigeons

Preparation and Cooking
When it comes to cooking a great pigeon dinner, the steps are easy and well worth following. Too many people feel that the two or three bites you get from a pigeon breast just aren’t worth it. I totally disagree. When properly prepared, a pigeon meal is the best you can get.

To start, marinate your pigeon overnight in Italian salad dressing in the refrigerator. On the day of cooking, cut the bacon slices in half and wrap each breast with half a piece of bacon. Attach the bacon with a toothpick. Over medium heat on a gas or charcoal grill, cook the pigeon until the bacon is cooked through, almost crisp. If done correctly, it will not be necessary to turn the breasts during grilling.

The tips to remember are that if the fire is too hot, the bacon will cook and burn before the pigeon is done. If your fire isn’t hot enough, neither the bacon nor the pigeon will cook all the way through. Take your time, get the heat right, and watch the faces of those eating your pigeon dinner light up with joy.