Dove hunting doesn’t require a lot of equipment, and it’s a great sport for families, beginners, and youngsters. Don’t underestimate the challenge, though. Not only are these birds small targets, they’re also erratic, unpredictable, acrobatic, and surprisingly difficult to bring down.

We may be heading into the ‘dog days’ of summer, but it’s not too early to start preparing for dove season. Savvy hunters will spend time this summer shooting skeet to sharpen their dove hunting skills. With practice and patience, you’ll significantly improve your accuracy and save wasting shots in the field.

Here are some additional expert tips to help improve your hunting this fall:

Check Your Visuals. Shooting with both eyes open will help with better sight alignment/sight image to improve your accuracy.

Choose the Best Time to Hunt. Morning hunting should be completed by 9:00 a.m. If no birds show by then, pack it in. Another prime hunting opportunity is at dusk, when the doves are getting ready to roost.

Open the Choke. Using a cylinder choke makes it much easier to shoot doves in the field. It will also keep your bird intact if you shoot it at close range. The best choke size for dove hunting is the light modified choke. At 0.710 constriction, it’s the perfect size for both close shots and longer passing shots.

Upsize Your Pellets. Experts suggest upsizing your pellets to 4s, 5s or 6s to improve the power at longer range. Tiny pellets not only lose their energy at longer ranges, but can also pulverize your bird at close range.

Practice Shouldering Your Gun. Practice the swing-through method by shouldering your gun quickly, keeping your cheek on the stock, following your target from behind, then firing as your muzzle moves a little past the target. Strive for one continuous, smooth motion. Remember to exaggerate your lead by about 6 feet.

Determine Your Bird’s Range. Your bird is out of range if its feathers look gray and blurry. If the bird is in range, you’ll clearly see its feathers which will appear dark.

Check Your Stance. Be sure your footing in the field is solid and level so you can remain flat-footed when you take your shot.

And finally, camouflage, camouflage, camouflage! Doves are sharp-eyed and suspicious. Wear a camo hat and shoes, and use camo grease on your face. Stay in a shady spot if possible, and consider covering your gun with camo tape. Remember, the closer the birds get before spotting you, the more successful your hunt!