HUNTINGsmart! USA Knowledge Base

Module 10 - WILDLIFE



These doves are plump-looking and mostly brown in color with a white stripe at the edge of their wing. Their square-shaped tails have black stripes and a white tip and they have a black mark on each cheek. They also have long, skinny beaks and tiny-looking heads compared to their chubby body. The trademark of the white-winged dove is the bright red color of their eye and the bright blue color rim around them.


White-winged doves eat mostly seeds, like the mourning dove. However, they have an interesting relationship with a specific cactus they use as a food source called ‘the Saguaro Cactus’. They actually time their migration to the Senora Desert in order to coincide with the blooming of this fruit and its water-bearing plant. The fruit produces a large amount of seeds, which the doves eat and spread around. These guys are much more of a desert bird than the mourning dove, but the same principle applies; if you can find their food source, you’ll be in luck.

Habitat & Migration Habits

You may have guessed it, but white-winged doves usually live in the southwest, particularly in desert areas. However, if you have a bird feeder in the backyard, you may find them loitering there too. Generally though, these guys prefer warm weather locations. Make sure the location is safe before you hunt them—ahem, don’t shoot at a birdbath.

Firearms, Ammo & Your Target

Doves make small, quick-moving targets, so you’ll need to have a firearm/ammo combo that provides plenty of pattern density when shot at a distance. A 12, 16 or 20-gauge shotgun will do the job but a 12-gauge is the most versatile option and is the very popular with dove hunters.

Vital Zones

It won’t take much to kill a dove, but you’ll need to shoot accurately. Pepper the bird with shot pellets while it’s in flight and it will come down pretty quick. The goal is to hit the head, spine, heart, and lungs to take the bird down quickly.  Shooting randomly at a bunch of doves zooming around a field will be less effective than taking a calculated shot. So, take your time, use a versatile shotgun that provides different shot options and shoot accurately. 

Hunting Tip:

Doves are most active in the morning and in the evening. They’re also creatures of habit—know their habits and you’ll know when to hunt them.


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