Did you get a chance to shoot at some doves yesterday? Opening day of dove season was always a highlight of my year while growing up. Although it was bittersweet, since it always was about the time school started back, I really looked forward to trying to hit the little gray birds. Opening day always bring back greet dove shooting memories.
Dove shoots were a big family affair back then. My Uncle J.D. always had a field and I got to go with daddy from the time I was able to walk to the blind and stay still. I was daddy’s retriever and I prided myself on never losing a bird he hit, no matter how thick the briars were where it fell.
I finally was allowed to carry my .410 shotgun on those shoots when I was about eight years old. On the first hunt that I was allowed to have my gun Uncle J.D. gave me an old army surplus gas mask bag to carry my shells and other supplies. Although that was almost sixty years ago I still use that bag when deer hunting.
I had a tough time hitting doves with my .410 since I didn’t get much practice shooting at flying birds. I was deadly with it on squirrel in trees but hadn’t learned to hit moving targets. And I didn’t shoot much since I think the adults put me and my cousins my age in blinds out of the main fly routes.
Sometimes I shot five or six times all afternoon, and didn’t hit a bird for the first couple of years I tried. I still remember the first dove that actually fell when I shot. I was very proud of it!
Daddy was the Agriculture teacher at the local high school and knew all the farmer in the area. So he got invited to many shoots and there were very few Saturdays during season we didn’t go after I proved myself at Uncle J.D.’s farm. On one exceptional shoot, when I somehow ended up in a good blind, I actually killed five doves. And it took only one box of .410 shells.
Back then most people didn’t pay much attention to the limit on doves and would kill all they could. Time were different and the doves provided good eating for the family, but you needed a lot of bird for a big family.
On one shoot when I was about 16 years old I killed a lot of birds. I was shooting a 12 gauge shotgun and it was more efficient, but at the end of the day I had shot five boxes of shells! Even on my best day I missed about three out of four shots!
My uncle Adron shot a 16 gauge shotgun and was deadly with it. I watched him many times in amazement. He almost never missed a bird – you could count on one dropping when he pulled the trigger!
Dove shooting is expensive, especially if you try to have your own field. It is bad enough shooting up several boxes of shells to kill a limit, but that is cheap when you consider the cost of plowing, planting, fertilizing and taking care of a field.
When I moved to Griffin in 1972 I wanted to go to a dove shoot that first fall but knew no one with a field. I saw an advertisement for pay shoot in the paper and went to it. Some farmers set up a dove field and charge people to hunt it to recoup their expenses.
That was my first and last pay shoot. I didn’t really pay much attention to the field, just watching the doves flying around when I checked it out. The day of the shoot I set up on a fence line and had killed two birds when I saw two game wardens coming across the field, checking each hunter.
I wasn’t worried since I was doing everything legally – I thought. But when the federal agent took my license and put it in the stack he was carrying I knew something was wrong. He said I needed to take my stuff to the parking lot and wait there for my ticket. The field I was on was baited.
The field owner had a legal field and sold all the spots on it he had, and had more people wanting to pay him to shoot. So he spread wheat on a nearby hay field and sold shooting spots on it. There were about 30 of us that got fined in federal court for being on a baited field. Each hunter paid a $75 fine and I heard the field owner had to pay a $2000 fine!
If you have a place to shoot doves, enjoy it. Make some great dove shooting memories! Just follow the laws. Don’t get that sick feeling I had when the game warden took my license! It is the only time I have ever gotten any kind of fine for anything related to hunting or fishing, and I never want another one!