I was about to bust with excitement when Richard called me and asked “Do you want to shoot dove this afternoon?” WOW!! Something I had not done before and here the opportunity was; right now, today!! I had about two hours to round up my gear and run into town to get my migratory bird stamp and back to the lodge in time to head out to the field for my first ever dove shoot.

Excited? Yes, to say the least…butterflies in my tummy excited! I was back at the house in record time. I mentally went through my list:
camo-check
bird vest-check
stool-check
shotgun-check
shells-check
license-check
ear protection-check…

I was ready to go. We drove out to a picked peanut field and you literally could not put your foot down without stepping in dove scat or feathers. Phew, was I ever excited. I was hoping to shed a feather out of a dove or two and add that to my growing list of game I have harvested.

Richard and I walked all the way to the East side of the field and sat down on our stools right on the edge of the field at the brush line. The afternoon started off a little slow, but within about 45 minutes the first flock of birds flew in. Boom! Boom! The shotguns across the field bellowed and a bird plummeted to the ground. Within a few minutes three birds flew right down the center of the field, boom, boom, boom…two birds nose dived. Several more flocks came in and I made the comment that it sounded like popcorn in the microwave there were so many shots. Not yet had birds come within our shooting direction. About two more sets of doves flew in and some fell, some flew out. Finally, here came three birds across the field at us. I raised my gun too soon and boom, boom…I shot sky.

Richard told me to wait until the last minute to raise my gun or the birds will turn or dodge. Another set came in and Richard shot two rounds and the birds flew by. He asked, “Why didn’t you shoot?” I said, “I can’t tell how close they need to be for me to shoot. I was thinking that if I didn’t hit them with my first shot then they must have been too far. After a quick lecture on leading and how far I can shoot and still be effective, we waited for some more birds.
In a short 10 minutes, all of the sudden it was like the sky was raining dove on us. I shot twice, reloaded, shot, reloaded…. I still hadn’t hit a bird!! I told Richard I thought that I must be shooting right at them and they are flying by my shot. A single bird was headed my way and Richard said, “Shoot at this one coming.” I shot, the bird dodged and Richard told me I shot beside him. So now I needed to work at leading these birds. Ten to twelve more shells shot and still no bird, not even a feather.

I reloaded my pocket with the rest of the shells in my box. I loaded my gun and waited patiently. We decided to move to the South end of the field. Here came more birds, boom, boom…nothing plummeted to the ground. The shooter in the middle of the field nailed two more birds. Then a few seconds later, he scored with another one.

Concentrate, concentrate, you can shoot a lot better than this. Losing my confidence I let two birds fly right by me blaming my inability to know if they were within my shooting range. I thought to myself, this is frustrating and exciting all at the same time. Okay, load up and shoot girl!! There will be none of this attitude…shoot the sky down if you have to but get you one of those gray fluffy birds that fly like a bat out of Haiti through the sky without even wavering.

I wanted one of those critters bad. I just had to have me one; ONE that is all I was asking for-that wasn’t much to ask for, was it? This yearning prompted me to flinch at everything that flew overhead; even the black birds and song birds. Richard explained to me and showed me how to quickly identify the difference between dove and other birds by their flight pattern. The doves were flying smoothly and the black birds and song birds seemed to pump the air and fly an unsteady pattern.

I had plenty of birds fly by me and I shot at a good many of them…well, I shot at the sky anyways. You think a cloud or two would have fallen to the field. But no, the clouds were just as stubborn as those little gray feathered flying saucers that buzzed by at the speed of light; Mach 4 AT LEAST!! I started to doubt the shells—likely excuse. But surely I should have seen at least one feather floating; NOPE! Not even a measly feather.

Well into my second box and with my reaction time primed—I still couldn’t connect with one of those aggravating gray feathered birds that I USE to think was so pretty. Now I have to admit, I usually work better under pressure and on the spot—but this was beyond pressure! This was like total insanity. Yes, a little feathered gray critter was driving me to the brink of insanity. I started to break a sweat…in 45 degree weather, in the South mind you.
With half a box of shells left and a double handful of shells I stole from Richard’s shell bag, I was determined I would get me one of those aggravating, not so cute now, gray feathered flying blurs. Looking for another excuse, I thought to myself that it has got to be my gun…it just has to be.

Talking Richard out of his gun and handing over my Ruger Red Label to him, I loaded three shells. Surely with three shells I will have time to chase and shoot, lead and shoot, and for good measure have a third shot to follow-up and shoot. Boy, was I ever wrong!!

Here they come, four in the sky, right at me. Telling myself to wait, wait, then now! I raise my gun boom, must be behind. Then I took a lead and boom; the bird dodged! Trailing away shot, boom at the tail feathers flying away from me. Arrgghhh!! And for adding insult to injury the birds flew a big pattern, circled, was shot at by another shooter only to head right back at me. Well, with the gun fully loaded for a second….and then emptied half as fast as it took me to load it….the birds, all four mind you, flew off the East side of the field—I could swear they were shaking their tail feathers at me.

With about a dozen shells to shoot and not an ounce of confidence left in me that I was remotely capable of shooting a dove much less parting the clouds, I half heartedly (but with fervor) gave the last twelve shots my all. I shot an entire two boxes of shells, plus a double handful of Richard’s shells, and two different shotguns; the results: I didn’t even cut a feather on a dove.

I still had the best time trying to get my first dove harvest but leaving the field with my confidence dragging and my hopes dampened, I worried that I must have gotten pretty rusty over the winter. I decided to shoot clays on Sunday afternoon to see if I could redeem myself. I did surprisingly well with the clays so it has to be my lead on those fast flying little gray doves. Next time, YES-NEXT TIME, I will know what to expect. I hope it will be soon because it was a lot of fun.

© Nancy Jo Adams 2009

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