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By Kevin Fox
For the outdoorsmen the Dove season opener really kicks off the fall hunting seasons. For what seems like forever, I have related to you what opening day of Dove season was like on the Fox farm. I can remember quite vividly when I was a kid and the lane coming into our house was unreal with traffic and that’s on a road that every other day of the year sees little or no traffic.
The night before the Dove season opener was one of those nights that I couldn’t sleep when I was a kid. I would also have trouble sleeping before the deer season opener and before the duck season opened. I’ve been hunting doves for a while; in fact, this year may mark my 59th or 60th year of being on the farm for opening morning. Because of those years, if I cannot sleep the night before the opener, it’s because I’m thinking about past hunts with fami-ly and friends who are no longer sharing the dove fields with us. Either that or what we had for supper at the cabin is taking a toll on me such as jalapeno pepper poppers.
Taking a limit no longer matters, I just want enough action to keep the level of excitement up. In the past, it was a reason to take a day off work or before that it was a day to miss school. I still refer to it as a national holiday that was especially recognized by our family. But, if your hunt is dependent upon be-ing successful, now is when you should be doing a little scouting in the morn-ing and evening to see where doves are roosting and feeding. For most of us we will be sitting in fields that are as familiar to us as sitting in our living rooms. Since things have changed after retirement, I have leaned towards making my hunts more comfortable than successful and if the two overlap it’s all the better.
Just a couple years back, it was a tough opening day as the farm had been under water for some time and there wasn’t a lot of feed for the doves. But we had done some disking and worked some sand to the surface doing that field work. Doves like the sand to put in their crawls as it helped them digest whatever food there is. Doves also like to have bare areas where they can land in the morning when the dew is on everything else. Their feathers do not amount to much, as I have never seen a dove down vest for sale or a dove down comforter. But even on that lean year, we had enough action for everyone to get some shooting.
Surprisingly, though, the next morning I decided to go to the farm and take Bailey, my yellow lab, with me. We sat in the shade of an oak tree and had a very good morning and ended up taking 10 doves before we hung it up.
Just being out and hunting is reason enough to enjoy yourself, but there are other ways to make that opener even more enjoyable. I mentioned scouting earlier and knowing where doves are is important. It is just as important to know what pattern they usually fly. A dove is a free wild bird and can do whatever it pleases, but after a while you notice that they will fly over a certain area more often than others, or they will avoid other areas more often. A lot of doves will escape opening day and it will not be because the hunter was a poor shot, but more than likely they will try shots that are out of the effective range of their shotgun.
So, when you find an area that is getting a lot of birds traveling through sit well within range of where they pass by for the best results. That shade I mentioned also helps improve your hunting. Of course, obviously it’s cooler in the shade, but it also helps conceal you so birds will not flare from you. I also have a small cooler with me with some soft drinks in it. This too serves two purposes.
First, it keeps you cooled down, but if there is anything I dislike more it’s getting back to the cabin and having to dress a bunch of doves that are stiff and were killed earlier in the morning. For that reason, I breast a dove out as soon as I pick it up and put that breast in a plastic bag and on ice with my name and other information on it. I throw the carcass in another plastic bag in case the conservation officer wants to see that as well. In my cooler I have a bottle of water that I rinse my hands off with when I’m done breasting the bird out. I love getting back to camp and when others are dressing their birds and dreading it, I’m already done.
There is no secret to taking a limit of doves. If there are plenty of doves and if you get enough opportunities, it will probably happen. If opportunities are not occurring very fast then you have to stay longer. So, it’s important to be able to stay longer, so a good chair is invaluable. But to be effective it really needs to be a chair you can shoot from.
Years ago, I bought a Banded hunting chair that folds up and swivels. The chair is too heavy to take in on a walk-in waterfowl hunt, but it is a great camp chair and is a great dove hunting chair. The number one problem with most chairs in the field is that they have arms and those arms restrict you from being able to swing your body and stay ahead of the dove going by. I’m getting so old now that I certainly do not need anything else to slow me down. I would tell you that you could use a bucket with a swivel lid for a seat and I have, but on a long hunt having a back rest is really nice. Besides the cooler and the chair, I would also get yourself a thermo – cell. These do an amazing job of keeping mosquitoes at bay. I know that insect repellents work, as well, but I don’t like what they can do to the bluing on your shotgun.
The final thing, I would add is a reminder that more than likely you will not be alone out there. Be sure to know where other hunters are and let them know that you are there as well. Do not even think about taking low shots if there are other hunters around you as you may be shooting directly at someone. Wear shooting glasses or good sunglasses to protect your eyes. Always let others know if you are going to leave and go out and pick up a bird so people know where you are.
Dove hunting can be a tremendous amount of fun for family and friends, do all you can to ensure that it stays that way.