I hope your first shot hits the mark, too.
I can’t tell you the first time I went dove hunting. I didn’t get to shoot, but I did get to pick up the birds. It was grand fun to take to the field with my dad and brothers then. It’s grand fun now to carry my sons and their brothers.
Dove hunting is a personal favorite of mine. I enjoy the genteel sport of quail hunting and like all true Southerners, I can be found in a tree during deer season.
But nothing makes my trigger-finger itch like the approach of dove season.
Fun In The Field
The sport has a lot going for it. You are guaranteed at least one shot when you go dove hunting.
I’ve been deer hunting and killed nothing but time. I’ve been duck hunting and brought home an empty gamebag. But when I take to the field on the opening day of dove season — heat up the skillet and make the biscuits!
State wildlife biologists have estimated between 2 million and 3 million birds will fly across Mississippi this season. While not all those birds will wing through Northeast Mississippi, a quick trip down any rural road lets you know there are a lot of birds out there.
The weather of dove hunting is more to my liking, too.
As a Son of the South, I am accustomed to hot sweaty days of September. I dress accordingly.
My brother and a couple of his hunting buddies laughed at my camouflage shorts and lilly-white legs last fall. But when the breeze stopped and the sun poured down, I coolly waved to them in their long-sleeved, long-pant hunting outfits.
And it is the camaraderie of the dove field that holds its special draw for me.
Every year I meet new friends in the field. We share an afternoon of hunting and rarely forget each other’s name when we meet on the street months later.
Dove hunting doesn’t require the silence of deer or squirrel hunting. Two or three people can share the same shady spot and solve the problems of the world when the shooting tapers off.
Dove hunters are also blessed with the circumstances to watch other hunters work. I never cease to marvel at men who can stop two birds with two shots. I can count on my hands the number of times I’ve accomplished the feat.
There are also the friendly taunts of hunting partners when you blow a shot.
I’m not a great bird hunter.
I scare ten times more dove than I kill and I am personally one of Mr. Remington’s better shell-burning customers.
Dove are blessed by Mother Nature with two gifts — speed and the ability to change direction in a wing-beat.
Take a look at this animal the next time you hold one in your hand. The part you put on the plate is what powers these critters and those two muscles are 65 percent of the bird’s weight. Those wings are angled rearward like a supersonic jet. The tail is long and when tilted to one side allows the bird to turn on a dime.
I’ve always said hunters make the best environmentalists, because they see first hand how the important things really work in this world.
Dove are what is known as an indicator species. Pollution affects them long before it touches other species. So if you don’t see the birds you once saw, take a look around and find the cause.
Don’t our grandchildren deserve a chance to enjoy dove hunting?
Don’t shoot low flying birds: Getting one hunter to shoot another hunter is the only real way dove have to get even with humans. Every year someone has to end their hunt early and get the doctor to dig shot out of arms, legs or worse. A personal rule of mine is if you see the darkness of a treeline behind your bird, don’t shoot!
Keep your eyes on downed birds: I believe the old saying “a bird in the hand it worth two in the bush,” was first said by a dove hunter. Don’t be tempted by hunters screaming about a bird overhead. Let them take a shot at it — you’ve got one on the ground! I’m more impressed with the hunter who knocks down ten birds and has ten to show, than the guy who felled 15 and only has nine.
Buy bug spray: It’s fall, not winter, and there are plenty of critters out there looking to gnaw on you. Think about sitting at work next week as chiggers build a fire around your tender parts. Scratching does ease the pain, but it can be so embarrassing!
Don’t shoot from the road: The practice is illegal and can cost you your gun, vehicle and a fine. Shooting a dove perched on a telephone line is tempting, but killing the bird may also kill phone service to rural homes. And besides, your buddies at Southwestern Bell may want to go hunting one day next week, don’t make them have to work late.
Obey the Law: Don’t forget your license and put the plug back in your gun. The only time I ever see game wardens is dove hunting. Those birds belong to the Great State of Mississippi and you have to have a license on your person to hunt them. As far as the plug goes, do you really have to shoot at a bird five times to hit it?
Floyd Ingram is a career newspaperman and lifelong hunter. He will be sunburned, have a sore shoulder and be smiling next week.