It’s hard to beat good dove hunting action when it comes to wing-shooting, so any legal thing a hunter can do to increase the number of doves is highly recommended. Food plots for dove hunting are one way to do this. Doves are attracted to many different seeds and grains, including corn, milo, millets, sunflowers and even buckwheat. Although many hunters used small plots for other species, larger food plots from 5 to 40 acres are recommended for good dove hunting fields.
Grasses such as Carolina geranium, foxtail and fall panicum produce seeds favored by doves and actually can make a food plot more attractive to these birds. Where certain broadleaf weeds can be an issue, grasses such as milo (grain sorghum) and millets should be substituted for forbs such as sunflowers because herbicides can then be used for weed control. Where grasses such as crabgrass and johnsongrass cause problems, a pure stand of sunflowers or buckwheat allows the use of grass-selective herbicides to control grass weeds.
There are many food plots and seed mixes that can be put together for doves, but millets and sunflowers work great together. For this mix, combined 10 pounds of white proso millet, 10 pounds of dove proso millet, 10 pounds of browntop millet and 5 pounds of peredovic (black oil) sunflowers. You can also substitute 3 pounds of milo in place of the sunflowers. Many hunters will plant sunflowers alone, but I think a seed mix is better for dove hunting fields.
In addition, research reports have shown white proso millet is the preferred seed for mourning doves, followed closely by dove proso millet and browntop millet. Regardless of type, if a good crop of millet is established then doves will be there. Also, the love affair between doves and sunflowers is well known, but if white-tailed deer are abundant then sunflower heads may be consumed before reaching maturity.
Another option when planting food plots for dove is a corn and milo combination. This mix takes 10 pounds of seed quality corn and 3 pounds of milo. Pure stands of corn or milo may also be planted, but I always prefer seeding a combination of plants in any food plot. Sunflowers can be planted at the rate of 25 pounds per acre and, of course, make excellent food plots. A good idea is to plant sunflowers on one-half of the field and then plant a corn-milo mix on the other half.
If sunflowers are planted for dove hunting, then management of the food plot becomes critical. Sunflower fields are normally managed by bushhogging sections or strips before and during the dove season. Also, sunflower fields can also be burned after the plants mature and turn brown to attract birds. Burning releases the seed and creates an open structure at ground level that doves really like.
Doves prefer fields with structure such as trees or powerlines nearby that allow them to perch and loaf near the feeding area. In addition, a source of water and grit will make the area even more attractive for doves. Also, if your food plots planted for dove hunting have a few weeds, don’t worry. Many of the naturally occurring weeds such as ragweed, barnyardgrass, croton, pigweed and pokeberry produce good seeds that dove consume.