Dove season makes most hunters break out their shotguns and camouflage for the first time in the fall, and while most opening day dove shoots are as much a social event as a hunting situation, the hunting will get serious in a crop field with several thousand winged migrants. 

One of the best places to have a productive dove shoot is a field loaded with a tasty agricultural offering. Even though dove season is many moons away, hunters looking for a productive season need to shift their planning into high gear immediately. 

If doves were given the choice to eat sunflowers, corn, soybeans or grain sorghum — and with all conditions the same — they would pick a field of oil-rich sunflowers without any doubt whatsoever. If hunters want to hunt over a field of black gold this year, time is ticking away, and seeds must be planted immediately in order to mature for the first fall season. 

Doves arrive in the Carolinas with a hearty appetite. They love sunflowers, and the Peredovik sunflowers are the preferred variety because of their small, oil-rich seeds. But with a 100- to 110-day maturation period, they must be planted by the first week of May to ensure enough time to prepare the fields for Labor Day weekend. Seeds should be planted ½-inch deep and on 40-inch rows at a rate of 10 pounds per acre.

Make sure to choose the best places to plant sunflowers to avoid crop failures. Ideal fields must be near and along public access areas to deter predation from deer. Deer love the tender shoots from young sunflower plants. Plots off the highway, tucked away from normal daily traffic, will be quickly destroyed by deer. As a general rule of thumb, two sides of the sunflower plot need road coverage to provide the best opportunity to grow into a thriving dove plot.