Doves require bare dirt to land and feed on, as well as being attracted by different crops. Sunflowers, milo and millet are especially attractive to doves, making their fields a sustainable food source throughout the season.
Once soil testing, liming, and fertilization has taken place, it’s time to plant. A dove field must be devoid of weeds in order for proper dove production.
Mourning dove shoots are a time-honored tradition in the South, and well-managed sunflower fields can provide ample food for mourning doves throughout fall and winter. But birds may quickly change their preferences as the season goes on; using seed blends designed specifically to attract doves like Mossy Oak BioLogic Whistleback or Guide’s Choice may be best to ensure you produce only high quality seed for these beautiful birds as the season unfolds.
Sunflowers are an obvious choice for dove food plots, but must be planted at just the right time. Chris McClellan from Sailors Creek Outfitters in Virginia recommends planting black-oil varieties that will reach maturity early and produce large numbers of seeds per acre.
Browntop millet makes an excellent dove food plot choice when planted between April and August at rates between 14-20 lbs per acre drilled and 25-30 lbs per acre broadcast, reaching maturity in 60 days while producing ample seeds per acre. You may want to combine browntop millet with other crops like soybeans or corn to attract doves throughout their season of visitation.
Doves are attracted to different seeds, so it is crucial that your food plot includes multiple species. Doing this also helps minimize losses due to predators and disease.
An ideal dove food plot should be located close to both prime roosting habitat and water sources such as a pond or stock tank, with added rough surfaces like gravel roads or utility lines so doves can gather food as they fly between feeding sites. Doves will find this food plot especially alluring.
No matter what type of plot you select, it is vitally important to clear away weeds before planting – either chemically or manually depending on site conditions and available resources. It is also wise to have soil tested by an independent laboratory in order to make sure nutrients and pH levels meet optimal plant production – this step forms part of any comprehensive food plot preparation for doves.
Doves enjoy eating all sorts of seeds and nuts, but their favorite food source is sunflowers. Sunflowers serve as a powerful visual signal that says, “Buffet Open!” from above to both resident and migrating doves alike; plus these large plants provide energy-rich energy sources whose seed heads make for beautiful scenes!
Sunflowers take approximately four months to mature and produce seeds, so hunters who wish to hunt them early must plant them as early as possible. Walter prefers white proso and browntop varieties while Perodovik sunflowers can also be good choices; Walter advises planting an assortment of sunflowers with different maturation dates so as to provide seed throughout the season for dove hunting.
Dove fields depend upon an uncluttered, weed-free environment for their birds’ landing and foraging needs, making weeding operations key components in maintaining this ideal ecosystem. Herbicide application combined with disking can achieve this result.
Doves require open ground to forage on, so adding grasses such as milo or grain sorghum into a field’s attractiveness will improve dove populations while providing shelter and food sources while simultaneously permitting application of selective herbicides for effective weed control.
Croton, a dandelion-like flower commonly considered a weed, provides doves with much needed sustenance. Doves especially enjoy harvesting its seeds as soon as they fall from wilted and dry blooms after their flowers have died off, then picking off and eating them as tasty treats in lieu of peanuts or sunflower seeds. Croton planting should begin in July to last through until sunflower blooming season in full force.
Though dove plots can be designed using almost anything, certain essentials must be in place in order for it to be successful. A weed-free environment is key as doves must be able to see their seeds on the ground; water sources such as creeks or streambeds must also be easily accessible, along with places for doves to roost such as dead snags where they can hide out for shelter from predators.
Doves can be drawn to any well-managed field of grain sorghum or another seed crop, particularly mourning doves that prefer open fields with plenty of food sources like seeds. Doves prefer clean fields without thatch or plant growth that impede their movement around the plot and nearer feeding sites as roosting sites for restful nights and daytime resting spots.
Mourning doves can be found feeding on various crops, with sunflower fields being a longstanding favorite among dove hunters. A properly managed sunflower field produces billions of seeds per acre and can be planted throughout the year – they’re easy to manage while remaining attractive to mourning doves! Other grains like wheat, millet and corn also work well as planting sites for mourning doves.
Dove hunters who wish to capture doves often utilize a mixture of sunflowers, milo and/or grain sorghum in their fields as food sources for the birds. By planting different kinds of grains at various stages of maturity throughout the season, this approach allows the doves to switch their diet throughout their stay in your field. It is crucial that hunters plant seeds with different maturation dates in order to keep attracting doves back again and again!
Dove plots should also include legume seeds such as partridge peas and vetches to provide doves with additional proteins for their overall health, and provide oils necessary to satisfy their nutritional requirements.
Seed blends specifically formulated to attract mourning doves can help attract and keep them around, including Mossy Oak BioLogic’s Whistleback blend, which has proven highly popular with mourning doves. At 10 pounds per acre, this food source will supply enough sustenance throughout fall and winter for mourning doves to thrive.
Other options for doves may include planting a mix of sunflowers and croton. Croton can be difficult to control with herbicides, yet still thrives under poor conditions and provides doves with essential food sources.
Doves typically avoid forests and understory vegetation and prefer fields, hayfields and agricultural areas with ample seeds available for collection. As ground feeders, doves require bare dirt on which to land and feed. Furthermore, they prefer unshelled seeds such as corn, sunflowers or millet.
Chris McClellan of Sailors Creek Outfitters in Virginia recommends planting a mix of crops to attract doves all season long. He suggests rotating corn, sunflowers and croton fields so doves have food throughout the year. When harvesting millet for hay baling is not only profitable but it scatters seed throughout your field after baling. He also favors using field burning machines if they’re legal under supervision from an insured burn operator.
Many hunters tend to plant corn as it’s easy to cultivate and doves love it, but McClellan insists that planting multiple types of crops is more efficient and cost-effective. “The more varieties of grain there are available, the more doves will flock toward it,” he suggests.
Other grain options to consider are sorghum and wheat. Wheat can be relatively inexpensive to plant and easy to grow; additionally, its abundant hulls make great bait. Unfortunately, however, it requires high levels of nitrogen fertilizer in order to thrive and may become overcrowded with weeds requiring herbicide applications.
Sunflowers are another popular choice, but according to McClellan they take up too much space and can quickly disintegrate in hot climates. A good alternative would be broadcasting red spring wheat which matures within 60-70 days and tolerates cooler climates better while producing more seed than quick-growing sunflower varieties.
Doves require at least an acre of sunflower fields per hunter in order to thrive, with rectangular rather than square layout preferred. Liming and fertilizing the soil is important, as is keeping weeds down by chemical means or cultivation and burning to provide the bare dirt doves crave.