A good dove gun for the typical Texas hunter is whatever shotgun happens to be within reach when the September season opens. That is the traditional concept. This casual attitude is reflected by the industry.  Amid racks of specialized waterfowl guns, quail guns and turkey guns few, if any, marketing efforts are aimed at "dove guns." There is no Remington Dove- master. Nor is there a Winchester Paloma Pounder. Yet, this indifferent stance by wingshooters is illogical when the numbers are considered. The mourning dove is far and away the most plentiful and popular game bird in the state. The convenient estimates are 50 million doves and 500,000 dove hunters. Those are gaudy tallies; indeed, the statewide participation in dove hunting surpasses all other wingshooting efforts combined.  As another factor, the generous daily dove limit (hovering between 10 and 15 for as long as I can remember) and the ex tended dove season (more than two months) allow much more "hands on" experience than, say, turkey hunting.  The avid dove hunter following the zones might conceivably burn through two or three cases. of shells. The dove gun, more than any other in Texas, really gets a workout.  Yet, while the industry is puffed up like a strutting gobbler over specialized turkey guns, for most September sportsmen, the dove gun remains -; whatever. Now is a good time to change that thinking. With several weeks remaining before the Sept. 1 opening of the North and Central Zones, the hunter in the market for a new gun has opportunity to fine-tune his act. Certainly, the concept of "correct" can have various interpretations based on preferences and prejudices. Not to mention physical dimensions and shooting styles. There is no absolute right.  But here, based on decades in the dove fields, are factors to consider when selecting a dove gun:  Gauge -; The smart money for the average  adult (and most teens) is a 12 gauge. Doves may be small but they offer many "big" shots, often at extreme range and under gusting wind. It can be a major mistake to lump quail and doves into the same upland bag; the typical light, fast 20- gauge quail gun can be woefully out of synch when pass shooting under an afternoon wind in an open feeding field.  The haughty hunter who calls foul on the big 12 simply hasn't paid his dues "taking them as they come" in the dove fields. Dove shooting really is a lot closer to duck shooting than quail shooting -; and the 12 is the standard of measure in the wetlands.  This is not to say that a 20 has no place in dove shooting. It can be fine choice for the skilled shooter under controlled circumstances (such as a water hole), or for the youngster or light-framed woman. A good but seldom-seen alternative is the 16 gauge, which combines the lightness of a 20 with the superiority of a 12. I would avoid a .410 or a 28 for any beginner -; much too challenging to hit with consistency.  Dimensions -; Again, the dove shooter should follow the lead of the waterfowler and lean to a longer barrel and heavier weight that encourage a more deliberate swing.  Many savvy dove shooters prefer 28-

 


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inch barrels over the standard 26- inch "upland" barrels.
The sequence of mounting the gun and swinging through the shot should be fast and smooth, but few abrupt surprises occur in the dove field. Almost always, the bird is spotted well out in front, either in coming or passing, and the hunter has plenty of time to anticipate the shot.

The traditional upland virtue of a quick snap through brush at a flushing bird is pretty much wasted; indeed, a stubby, light gun lacks the stability of a longer, heavier model. It might waver off track, especially on a target beyond 40 yards.
A measure of extra mass and heft can smooth things out on both ends of the gun (less felt recoil from the repeated shots typical of a dove hunt). It also is worth noting that the dove hunter, unlike the quail hunter, usually waits with the gun by his side at a specific station.

Toting the heavy gun for several hours seldom is an issue. Again, we're closer to the duck blind here than the quail coverts
But, while many waterfowl guns are stocked short, the dove shooter might benefit from an extra -inch or so on stock length. Keep in mind that the duck or goose hunter is


bundled in several layers of awkward camo and foul-weather gear. A short stock helps clear the shoulder without hanging or catching.

The dove hunter under sweltering September sun is garbed in a lightweight shirt. For this reason, a duck gun pressed into dove duty might seem too short. This is not to suggest that a reasonably skilled shooter cannot adjust -; but what's the point.

The idea here is to tune a gun specifically for the business at hand. This usually means a longer length of pull in September.

Type -; Doubles, pumps and autoloaders each have advantages and disadvantages. Well, it's true.

If you're asking me, get a clean, trim over/under that "points well" and looks nice. The over/under with good wood and fine checkering certainly costs more than a stamped-out pump or a plastic- finished autoloader, but (reflecting on the lofty dove statistics) this is a gun that will see a lot of use. It is very pleasant to carry a gun that does the job and glows with pride.

You could say the same about a fine side-by-side, although the single sighting plane of the ribbed over,under seems to point better in most hands.

In my opinion, the third shot of a (plugged) magazine gun is over rated in dove hunting. By the time you get around the final "pop" things are really unraveling with fast-moving doves.


You are most likely twisted at a weird angle and firing at something very small and getting smaller. Even if you rake a dove down, the odds of lost fall are great. Too many things are going in too many directions.

The third shot can be a definite advantage over decoying ducks or rising quail, where several targets are at close range and within the same field of view. This "ice cream" setup just doesn't happen all that often with doves. If you cannot do it with two shots, better to fall back and regroup.

Now, having said that, I realize that pumps and autoloaders are the most popular shotguns in Texas. Either can be a fine choice for doves, especially for the shooter who uses restraint and saves the third shot as an anchor for a fluttering cripple.

I've enjoyed using several pump guns over goatweed patches and water holes -; fun and functional.

Frankly, I've never had much use for autoloaders. Yes, they reduce the felt recoil and, true, many of them point well, but I just don't enjoy wielding them. That's nothing more than a personal prejudice.

But, preferences and prejudices aside, one thing that does make perfect sense is fine-tuning a dove gun for September.