Outdoors with Kevin Fox
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Dove Season To Open September 1
Fall is really here even if the calendar doesn’t say it yet. When I start articles about hunting seasons opening soon then it is fall. The Dove season opener kicks it off. There is a scene from the movie, “Field of Dreams” where it gives an aerial view of a string of cars coming to the ballpark in the field of dreams with their headlights on. To a lesser degree, this was what opening day was like on the Fox farm when I was a kid growing up. It was even larger after the state bought part of our farm and the Logsdon farm and planted sunflowers. The lane coming into our house was unreal with traffic and that’s on a road that every other day of the year traffic is never used to describe it. The night before the dove season opener was one of those nights that I couldn’t sleep when I was a kid. The other nights were before the deer season opener and the other one was the night before the duck season opened. I’ve been hunting doves for a while and in a conversation I just had with my brother, he has probably been hunting doves for in the neighborhood of 65 to 66 years and I’m probably at 57 to 58 years. Because of those years, if I cannot sleep the night before the opener I’m thinking about past hunts with family 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 give me a reason to be out there and staying awake or getting up early. 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 being successful, now is when you should be doing a little scouting in the morning and evening to see where doves are roosting and feeding. For most of us, we will be sitting the 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. Last year was a tough opener 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 by doing that field work. Doves like the sand to put in their crawls as it helps 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. We had enough action for everyone to get some shooting. However, the next morning I decided to go to the farm and take Bailey, my yellow Lab, and I sat in the shade of an oak tree and had a very good morning and ended up taking ten doves before we hung it up.
There are ways, however, to make your hunt more enjoyable. I mentioned scouting earlier, knowing where doves are at is important, it 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 shoot, but more than likely they will try shots that are out of range. So when you find are 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 be flare from you. I also have a small cooler with me with some soft drinks in it. This also serves two purposes. First, it keeps you cooled down, but if there is anything I dislike more than anything else it 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 then throw the carcass in another plastic bag in case the conservation officer want to see that, as well. In my cooler, I have a bottle of water that I rinse my hands off with when I am 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 judged a duck calling contest at Game Masters in Quincy, Illinois. For doing this, the store gave me a gift certificate, it was nice, but I hadn’t expected it. Before I left the contest, I gave my gift certificate right back to them and bought a Banded hunting chair that folds up and swiveled. 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 that back rest is really nice. Besides the cooler and the chair I would also get yourself a Thermacell. These do an amazing job of keeping mosquitoes at bay. I know that insect repellants work as well, but I don’t like what they can do to the bluing on your shotgun and the way they close up your pores. It can be very hot out there in the field, anyway you do not need something to make it worse.
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 think about taking low shots if there are other hunters around you, so you are not 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 is a tremendous amount of fun for family and friends, so do all you can to ensure that it stays that way.