Crow, Dove and Goose Challenge

by Chris McCotter

   Let’s talk about realistic hunting challenges for Virginia hunters. How about dropping a dove, goose and crow all in one day? You’ll be pursuing 50-mile-per hour softballs, armored drones and the smartest bird that flies.  Is that even possible? It can be if you know where to look, have the right equipment and move quickly from venue to venue. Here’s some advice on how to drop this early season feathered hat trick.


   Early goose season begins at legal shooting hours and that means sunrise. You can choose to hunt early or late for resident geese, just be sure you’ve scouted them before showing up and have some idea as to where you’re going because you often have one or two shots before they wise up.

   Public lakes and private ponds are abundant in our region. Many farmers do not like the resident geese as they cause damage to crops and yards. Take some time and ask to hunt their small ponds so that you can help them reduce the problem.  Kayaks are great for hunting geese. 

   Access to public lakes can also be accomplished in the rural areas by asking permission of homeowners to set up off their docks or put your jon boat in from their property and set up in front of their pier.  Many lake property owners are frustrated with the damage to the manicured lawns that they try to maintain all year. Just keep in mind minimum distances you can hunt from an occupied dwelling. This often varies from county to county, so be aware of this BEFORE you set up your decoy spread.  

   If you can, try and buy a half dozen decoys or ask someone to borrow a little flock.  Most experienced waterfowl hunters are eager to encourage and help beginners and may be willing to lend you or give you a few of their old decoys. 

   During early goose season, the geese are typically still in their family bunches and do not always feed together in large flocks. A tip is to use small decoy spreads: 10-18 decoys total. Use small bunches of decoys spread out to resemble family flocks.  This gives the realistic early season appearance as well as gives the geese plenty of room to land. 

  Decoys are not an absolute necessity because resident geese will often come repeatedly into an area where they feel safe – where they were yesterday is where they often go today. The decoys will help but you can be successful without them. Calling to resident geese is also not critical.

    As far as specialized camo, don’t get too involved. Your lightweight hunting clothing will provide the necessary camouflage cover.  

    Beginners usually think that they need a special gun for waterfowl hunting, but this is not the case.  Granted many new guns today are designed with waterfowl hunting in mind, with camouflage coverings, weather resistant coatings and specialized choke systems.     

    You can actually use your existing deer hunting shotgun to experience the fun of goose hunting.  Waterfowl hunting does require the use of steel or non-lead shot, which if shot enough can wear down your favorite deer barrel.  

    Shooting geese usually requires larger shot such as BB.  When you look at the expense of blended metal shot such as Hevi-Shot, it appears to be expensive, but if you compare shooting a bird one or two times to shooting three or four times, the blended metals products are cheaper and you feel more comfortable in your abilities.  We also have an ethical obligation to make a quick, clean harvest.  Consider this when buying your ammo and patterning your new barrel.

   If you buy a good beginner goose call it will have instructions on basic calling, which is all you need to call the more relaxed resident geese.  

  Be sure to check all the laws as there are three hunting zones in Virginia for goose season, each having different rules. You will also need a Virginia hunting license, state and federal waterfowl stamps and H.I.P. permit. 

   Use your existing camouflage clothing and any deer blind material you have to cover up you and your gear.  Hunt the mornings and evenings trying your calls, watch the reaction of the geese and try to learn new things.  In no time you will be off to the next challenge at noon…


   Dove hunting is a favorite early season activity among area shooters. As long as you understand that not every cornfield has doves and that some overgrown fields can be loaded, you’ll at least understand just how random a good dove shoot can be.

   Keep in mind, the first segment of dove season begins each day at noon. With that being said, location is critical in dove hunting, both in having a location with birds and in surveying the location for bird patterns.  

   The most successful dove hunts take place on managed dove fields, either public state run operations, pay to shoot hunts, or private venues.  During season, check out message boards at sporting goods stores, Woods & Waters Magazine and word of mouth for good hunts. Public hunting lands take a lot of pressure from the public.  Make no mistake about it, it will get crowded early as people come in several hours before shooting time to pick out the good spots and make claim.  Pay hunts are usually fairly reliable and you can expect to pay anywhere from $50 to $150 a gun.  Ask around to see if anyone has experience with a certain outfitter.  If you live “out in the country” and know landowners and farmers who will let you hunt, that is likely the best route to go. 

   Given the choice to hunt a cornfield, sunflowers, or some combination of these with or without various millets, I would choose sunflowers. And each particular field will show a preferred feeding route for the birds.  From the nesting areas the birds travel a predictable route to and from the field.  Scout this if you have time and set up accordingly.  Do not be afraid to move if you aren’t getting birds and it is ok with the host – trust me on this one – if there are only a few birds and they are showing a particular flight path you want to be able to reach them as they travel that pattern.  

   With regards to clothing and concealment, I can tell you that like most game, dove have great eyesight and will flare if they see movement or color contrasts they don’t like.  Sure, ol’ granddad will claim he hunts ‘em in a white tee shirt and flip-flops, but I recommend colors that blend into the surroundings.  Camouflage is not required, but the clothes should be earth toned at the least.  My favorite early season outfit is a pair of beat up green jeans and a brown shirt.  I like a wide brimmed hat for sun protection.

    There’s way too much yakity-yak about guns and loads and such.  You got a gun bigger than a 28 gauge?  Bring it.  By some quality #8 shot loads, one ounce for 12 gauge, and 7/8 ounce for 20 guages.  Modified choke for single barrels, IC and Modified for double barrels.  Bring some cold drinks.  A sports bucket will come in handy for keeping drinks, extra shells, and bagged birds, and giving your feet a rest.

    Using dove decoys is a good idea.  The rotary winged versions are effective, but tend to cause lots of low birds so be careful.  Decoys for power lines and fence posts are DEADLY.  And you only need three or five decoys:  Place one decoy.  Then 10 feet away put the other ones space about a foot apart.  Watch the birds come from 100 yards to get in that open spot.

   FYI, the ticks and chiggers (red bugs) will eat you alive squatting or standing in a dove field. Spray down liberally before the hunt, especially around the top of your boots and pant legs.


    Not everyone is Duck Commander with duck boat, dozens of decoys, $100 calls, fancy guns and purebred retrieving dogs. 

   Nope, there are those that hit the field in worn Carhartts, long-sleeved camouflaged shirts bought at Wal-Mart and a slightly rusty 12 ga. pump found at a garage sale for $35. The most expensive part of the gear kit is probably the electronic game caller at $49.95.

   These are the pursuers of the Black Bandit, the Brotherhood of the Crawe or just crow hunters.

   Hunting crows can be a rewarding experience considering they are the smartest of the North American birds, destructive to farm crops and wreak havoc on their fellow bird populations.

   You can pursue this highly intelligent quarry while assisting farmers and doing a favor for other birds if you choose to hunt crows.  Here are some of the basics of crow hunting that will help you get started this season, in between duck hunts, of course!

Locating Crows

      Locating crows is not unlike locating other game birds. Drive around and look for them on farmlands, feed lots, orchards and vineyards. You might also listen and then blow a few “Come Here” calls and see what response you get. Sometimes you can call in crows during a slow time on a dove hunt.

  If you are lucky enough to locate a roost or flyway, you can often find hundreds of crows. Dense pine or cedar trees often serve as crow roosts. Check them in the evenings or right after sunrise.

   Crows are most successfully hunting in the morning as they fly down from roosts and hungrily look for food. They respond to calling and decoys best early in the day. By the late afternoon they are full and trying to just get back to their roost.

  Crow season in Virginia began last month and runs through the early spring. You are permitted to hunt Wednesday, Friday Saturday and Sunday only, no matter where you hunt. Crows are a federally regulated migratory species; however, no HIP permit is required and hunters may use unplugged shotguns to hunt them. Electronic calls may be used on private and public lands and are very effective at drawn crows within range.

  Well, there you have it – an early season hat trick game challenge worth attempting. Good luck!

What’s New?

Fredericksburg Ducks Unlimited Banquet

  Area waterfowlers and conservationists will gather September 8, 3 pm at the Fredericksburg Fairgrounds for their annual Beef & Crab Feast. 

   The event will bring together hunters from all over the region to enjoy the fellowship of a fine meal as well as raise funds for the many conservation projects the chapter champions.

  Come out and meet 2023 Wetland Protector of the Year, Chris Hallberg as well as many of the region’s top waterfowl hunters. 

  The afternoon’s schedule begins with the first serving of crabs at 3 pm as well as the opening of the VIP hospitality area. Dinner will be served at 6 pm and a gun raffle drawing will commence at 7:30 pm. At 8 pm there will be a live auction. Tickets are available at

New Outdoor Expo At End Of August

  The Appomattox Community & Disaster Relief Organization will be hosting a two-day event, “The Appomattox Outdoor Expo” on Saturday, August 26, 2023, from 10am – 6pm and Sunday, August 27, 2023, from 11am – 5pm at the Spring Grove Events Center Appomattox, VA 24538. 

  The event will feature manufacturers and dealers of outdoor and recreational equipment related to hunting, fishing, archery, camping, guns, knives, etc. Food vendors will be on site, full glass purchases & bottles of wine, distilled spirits cocktails and craft beers will be available for purchase. Crafters will be at this event offering their wares. This is a family-friendly event, but please, no dogs or other pets. 

  The ACDR is holding this fundraising event to provide the training, equipment, and manpower to provide the citizens of Appomattox County with Emergency/Disaster Preparedness training, as well as First Aid, Search & Rescue, and others. Portions of the proceeds are earmarked for equipment donations to local law enforcement.

  Information and ticket sales will be posted on the website,, with an info hotline message available (434) 998-1203. Tickets will be $10 for each day, with under 12 years FREE, and can be purchased online. Get your tickets soon, this should be a popular event!

  Visit and “LIKE” the event Facebook page, Appomattox Outdoor Expo, (@APXExpo) to be kept informed of event happenings as well as the website,

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