A. I didn't know that they had ...
To start dove hunting from scratch is not nearly the problem
that duck or pheasant hunting is. You need know the sex of the pheasant and
the sex and type of duck before you shoot. With doves you just need to know
that it's a dove. And therein lies the problem. There are lots of birds in
central Texas but only three kinds of doves. When there are other hunters
close by, the novice can watch what is taking the fire and follow the other
shooter's lead. After a bit you notice that a lot of the songbirds have a
rise and fall to their flight, with an intermittent flap of the wings or that
the scissor-tails are usually cuttin' didos even more than a dove. I think
it was Bob, (No reputations impugned here. There have been too many Bobs for
that.) whose comment raised eyebrows at the cleaning table when he said "I
didn't know that they had yellow beaks." They don't. Then there was the new
hunter who casually noted "I thought they were gray, but up close they're
black and white." The other hunter said "Show me." and out of the
bag came a nighhawk. Hmmm.
C. What do you mean only 15 doves per hunter?
Jeff and the State
D. They shouldn't race pigeons on Opening Day
Doves can come in fast and, especially early in the season,
they can seem faster than they really are. There's a lot to figure out in
the first few shots, before second nature take over again. Last season you'd
not have to think about how the angle of flight would affect the lead, or
if your head was snug on the stock or if you were using you forward hand to
lead. Like riding a bike, those things would soon take care of themselves.
So it was, early on opening day, when the first large flight came over the
trees near the hunters at the edge of the house field. Bob and Bill remembered
to hold still so not to spook them before they were in range. They thought
of all the things to remember. Take your time. Pick a single bird. Follow
through. Squeeze and not jerk. Both were in range and both fired and everything
worked. The one fallen bird landed nearly at one of the hunters feet in the
dove weed. It was a big bird, First of the season, mostly hidden in the weeds
but right there. He reached down for the bird. It was Big. It was cleanly
killed. It wore a leg band. It was a pigeon. Picking the second bird in the
flight seemed proper, in order to give the other hunter the front bird. They
E. The owl got it
F. Don't think about the shot too long
Shotgunning is instinctive shooting. There was reported
to be a class in Ft. Worth that could teach shotgun proficiency using a BB
gun. They'd end up with you being able to shoot candy wafers out of the air.
Good form and a good fitting or at least a familiar gun are indisputable positives.
The best shotgunners are supposedly rarely aware of the barrel, never the
sight bead, just the bird. We all have made shots that amazed our friends
(and us, too,) when a bird came out of nowhere and with no time to think we
could only raise the gun and fire. No time to think of lead, angle distance.
Just point and shoot. And we've all watched the single from the time he was
just a speck in the sky until he flew directly over us out head 10 yards up
and we missed. We thought about it too much. You have to lead and compensate,
and follow through, but it looks like what's in your eyes and arms may be
more accurate, more natural, than what's in your head. Elephant hunter WDM
Bell shot waterfowl on the wing in Africa with a rifle. He carried his rifle
all day every day for months and pointed it various things until it "became
like part of my arm". It was that way, too, with Fred Bear, the grand
old man of Bear Bows. Come to full draw and release. No sight pins, no studying
after you've drawn. Point and shoot. It can work. But not if you wait 'til
opening day to pick up you gear.
G. Dove tags
H. The day you're looking for
Just before dove season opens there will hundreds of birds
on the power lines all across rural Texas. They'll be in backyards in the
cities and swooping over all of the interstates. The last week of September
will not only bring anticipation to the soon to be hunters and the sporting
goods stores, but she'll usually see fit to bring a collision of warm moist
air from the Gulf with the cool front moving down from the northwest. Then
we're given what we will've been wanting for the past four months; rain. Rain
is known to move the birds "out". It's hard to understand how the
rain can move the millions of birds you've been seeing to some where they
can't be seen. But you never hear of rain moving the birds "in",
that's just how it works. Ask any rancher or hunter. "They were all over
the place last week and then yesterday the rain moved them out". Days,
other than today, tell of promise, like the yesterday of "You should
have been here yesterday" or the tomorrow of the Irish pub sign "Free
beer tomorrow." In spite of the best hunting conditions fading in the
last week of August, the season always opens and each hunter hopes to find
the day he's been looking for. The day of no misses, of one bird for one shot,
right up 'til the limit is filled. It does happen, but not often. You remember
the times it happened. You don't have to guess or estimate, you know exactly.
Those few dats were the days you put down your gun, sat at the cooler, and
watched the rest of the guys shoot and enjoyed not helping them "fill
out". You'd done better than to shoot a limit of birds. You competed
with yourself. And won.