by M.D. Johnson
Several years ago, no one knows exactly when, a guy was sitting alone in a dove field. As he sat, he watched doves landing on an abandoned telegraph line some 100 yards away. He noticed, astute individual that he was, that regardless of where the first dove landed on the wire, the following birds would land alongside. He also noticed that birds that at first seemed hell-bent on over-flying his field, often quickly changed direction, and—surprise! They lit next to those already perched on the wire. Over time, our guy began to see a pattern, a common denominator, so to speak, until one day while sitting back in his recliner with the Daily News, the spark burst into flame.
“What if,” he thought, “I was to string a wire between two high poles and clip a couple dove decoys to it?”
And with that, the doctor smacked the man’s idea on the butt and the modern Dove Wire squalled its way into being.
The way I see it, dove hunters flat got tired of feeling left out. After all, duck and goose hunters have their fake birds. Turkey hunters have their decoys. So, too, do those who chase sandhill cranes and crows. Heck, today’s outdoor supply catalogs include decoys ranging from whitetail deer to pronghorn antelope, elk, and moose. There’s even a spastic rabbit meant to fool coyotes and fox into believing that, well, this particular entrée has some serious coordination issues. Why not doves?
Enter the dove wire. In its most basic form, the dove wire consists of little more than a pair of uprights between which is stretched, well, something. Purists wishing to remain true to the dove wire’s name often use a cable or rope. Some folks opt instead for a run of 1/2-inch electrical conduit as their perch. Add a couple decoys and a method for keeping the outfit stable and in an upright position, and you’re ready to go. Simple? That’s the beauty of the dove wire. It is simple.
The Dove Wire
Better known as the Uncle Greg Version, named after the uncle of two brothers from northeast Ohio with whom we hunted. Uncle Greg is a very nice gentleman and tech-head who, according to the younger brother, Rob, lives for designing and building stuff. Greg, says Rob, was the mastermind behind the current version of the brothers’ dove wire.
What Greg did was frighteningly simple; however, I must apologize in advance if I don’t have the exact measurements correct here. Greg’s wire consists of two 10-foot sections of 3/4-inch electrical conduit, one 12-foot section of 3/4-inch, two 2-foot sections of 1/2-inch conduit, and two 90-degree (3/4-inch) elbows. The two 10-footers are the uprights, while the 12-footer with the elbows serves as the cross-member or perch. The two pieces of 1/2-inch are driven into the ground, and the ends of the 10-footers—remember…they’re 3/4-inch so they fit nicely—fit down overtop of them. Done as so, this wire is more than stable, not to mention high enough to catch the eye of any passing birds. A little bit of camouflage duct tape covering the shiny conduit, and the wire’s ready for business.
The advantages of Greg’s design are many. First, and as already mentioned, it’s solid. Secondly, it allows the decoys to be displayed at least 10 feet above the ground, and as all decoy users know, the plastic doves can’t work if the birds can’t see them. Third, the total cost of wire, excluding the Flambeau dove decoys, is less than $15. Fourth, and while the overall length of the rig is 12 feet, it’s still relatively easy to transport in either a pickup or a SUV. Note: If you want to go with the Uncle Greg design but are hesitant because the wire won’t fit in your Ford Ranger or Yugo, you can always cut both the 10-footers and the 12-footer in half. Buy yourself three 3/4-inch conduit connectors, and assemble the whole thing in the field. Now you’re only working with 5- and 6-foot sections instead of 10- and 12-foot pieces.
And there are more advantages. Greg’s wire is lightweight and can easily be assembled and erected in less than five minutes. And, the darn thing works like a charm. Not every time, but often enough to make a believer out of me.
A final note. When my wife, Julie, and I hunted with the brothers, Rob used a few short turns of black electrical tape to secure both the uprights and the crosspiece to the elbows during field assembly. Too, the eight or so Flambeau dove decoys were similarly held tight to their metal perch using the same black electrical tape. Greg mentioned this ‘tape’ step as somewhat of a side note during our opening day hunt, claiming that an earlier ‘untaped’ version of the wire allowed the perch and the decoys to spin—a characteristic, I’m assuming, the doves found less than attractive.
The Dove Stick
I’m going to mention this one simply because I built one. That, and it seems to work.
Years ago, I saw what looked like a collapsible television antenna. You know, those constantly busted-up collections of aluminum rods of varying lengths that looked kind of like a Charlie Brown Christmas tree, only shiny? Well, this one came complete with a half-dozen dove decoys. I can’t recall for certain, but I think it went by the name of the Dove Tree. The theory behind the contraption, I believe, was that the tree could be placed in the ground, the arms raised, and dove decoys placed randomly about the metal branches.
Apparently, it stuck with me; however, my version was a bit different, and consisted of two 10-foot sections of 1/2-inch conduit, a 1/2-inch connector, a 2-foot piece of 3/4-inch conduit, and three 4-foot ash branches trimmed neatly…but not too neatly. In the field, I drive the 3/4-inch support into the ground. Next, I connect the two 10-footers. One branch is zip-tied tightly a couple inches from the top of the pole. The remaining two branches are zipped together to make one long perch, and this is fastened securely 2 to 3 feet below the first. Four or five decoys are clipped to the branches, and the entire rig is hoisted into position and slipped into the larger support conduit. During an Ohio dove hunt in early September, with the Dove Stick but days old, I watched several birds either land or attempt to land on the ash stick perches. Scientific conclusion? No, but scientific enough to convince at least one goofy dove hunter—me.
The Electric Dove
I’d be remiss here if I didn’t mention the 21st Century version of the dove decoy, that being the spinning-wing dove, aka the MOJO Dove. Powered by four AA batteries—or in my case, a swap for one 9-volt battery—these spinners, like their waterfowl decoy counterparts, provide a visual strobe-like flash to an otherwise immobile spread of fake doves. In essence, and for those hunters who might have been residing under the proverbial rock for the past half dozen seasons, these wing spinners, with their dark-light flashes, resemble a dove coming in to land. Seeing this, doves, if think they indeed do, reckon there must not only be food nearby, but good company as well.
When used either alone or in tandem with three-dimensional static decoys, spinners can be awfully effective; good at attracting attention from a much further distance than can traditional decoys. They are lightweight, and most break down into a two-wing and body package that fits easily into a stool, seat, or, my favorite, a camouflage 5-gallon bucket. Typically, I’ll use a pair of spinners – one on its own stake approximately two feet above the ground, and an elevated second, either as part of the aforementioned dove wires or sticks. The downsides? Batteries and battery life are a consideration; however, most MOJO Doves (mojooutdoors.com) will run continually for a hunt or two before beginning to grow sluggish. The answer? Extra batteries, of course. And as a note—I do use a single 9-volt as opposed to four AA (6 volts) batteries in my spinners. The extra RPMs generated by the nine volts versus the six do seem to increase the decoy’s draw-power via more rapid and frequent flashes; however, one does run the risk of burning up the small drive motors inside the decoy as a result of the increased voltage. I’ve personally not burnt one up, but that day, I reckon, will come.
Waterfowlers have relied on fake ducks and geese for hundreds of years, and, undeniably, with good success. Decoys in the dove field introduce an entirely new dimension to this incredible hunting opportunity. And besides—anything that will slow a mourning dove down, even momentarily, is, as most avid dove hunters will agree, quite an asset. Speaking only for myself, I need all the help I can get when it comes to connecting with these grey speedsters.
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