Saturday, August 15, 2009

Dove Hunting

Some of the best times I had with my dad were while mourning dove hunting. Not that I was always on top of what was happening but I always had a good time.

Dad had a network of friends and contacts who were always more than eager (or so it seemed to me) for Dad and his snot-nosed kid to come by and hunt. Set-up on a big field you felt like a part of the gang but were too far away to really do anybody any harm (although I didn't quite realize that for a bit). Standing around the cars with my open double barrel cradled on my arm while the hunt was "organized" was enjoyable. Lots of side conversations were very interesting. One could learn a lot about a lot of things as you waited to go to your place.

Dove hunting is one of those things that you can do equally well alone or with a big group of folks. It doesn't involve much work. All you need is a field of naturally occurring feed of some sort (baiting is forbidden), a place to stand where you can safely shoot, a shotgun and a number of shells. If you take a cooler of cold drinks (preferably NOT alcoholic) you can use that for a seat while you wait. Get over a food plot enroute to or from a roost and you are in for some fast shooting. Depending on how you set up, all gauges of shotgun work, another plus for the sport. The hunt was organized when everybody had been placed where they would keep the doves inside the field once they had made their approach. The idea was often to have the doves move past as many hunters as possible. Hunters were close enough to have interlocking fields of fire but not quite close enough to present a real danger if a gun was swung a bit too far in the excitement of the hunt.

Unfortunately, it is harder and harder to find such a field on which I can get permission to hunt. Fewer fields, fewer farmers willing to let strangers hunt (even asking permission). I don't have a dog anymore either. That made things a lot easier. Hunting alone I might get only 6 doves because I had to spend some time finding those I'd downed. The dog's nose is a BIG help in locating dead birds in grass or corn stubble.

Sometimes, in the poverty of my youth, I'd take the dog and walk up doves in fallow fields where they were feeding on "weed" seeds. They don't quite boil out like quail or grouse but there's some excitement and the dog allows one to actually find the downed birds. On a good evening of walking (after school) I might get a half-dozen birds in this way.

Dove season is nearly on us. Find your fields. Be sure to have enough ammo!

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