Two years ago, I tried dove hunting for the first time; which you can read all about that experience by clicking here. I have joked ever since that day about my lack of dove hunting skills. I am a sucker for anything that has to do with hunting game…be it feathers or hide. I was excited about the forthcoming dove hunt at Rack Nine Outdoors but a bit hesitant because of my last experience. If anything can make you lose your confidence in your shooting abilities, it is dove hunting.
Dove season in the Southern Zone of Alabama opened at noon on October 1st. We headed to the field at 12:30 p.m. I was dropped off at the edge of a harvested and cut cornfield. Me, my Ruger Red Label shotgun, a shell pouch full of a box of high brass, 12 gauge, number 7 1/2 shells…I was determined that on this dove hunt, I WAS going to cut a feather.
My first three doves flew directly at me and over my head never had a barrel pointed at them. I had forgotten how fast these feathered critters actually were. I don’t know if it was because of the lack of time I had to get ready, or if it was that it had not sunk in that the flash of gray were actually birds or just plain amazement that these birds could fly SO FAST. I am not sure what it was, but I can tell you…..they were VERY safe traveling over this hunter at that particular moment.
The next two birds were crossing in front of me and I had a fourth of a split second to realize they were actually dove, a fourth of a split second to pick up my shotgun, a fourth of a split second to time and lead the bird and the rest of that split second to actually pull the trigger. The POOF of light gray feathers the shot through the air as if someone pulled the string on a party popper was all the assurance I needed that I actually made contact with the bird. I actually CUT A FEATHER on a DOVE!! I wanted to do cartwheels across the cornfield and retrieve my first dove. I was so excited and I watched as the bird was floating to the ground, however not tumbling, flopping or even lifeless. This bird seemed to have its wings held open gliding to the ground. It finally reached a clump of bushes.
I walked quickly to those bushes. About 3 feet from the bushes I readied my gun, just in case. I kicked the bushes. Nothing. I ran my boot across the top of the bushes. Again, nothing. Okay, at this point I am thinking this bird in dead in the bush. Wrong! The bird was not in the bush at all. Nor was it on the ground around the bush….it was not even in the immediate area. Heck, I don’t even think it was in the entire field….or the same zip code, for that matter. POOF!! It was GONE!!
I had cut a feather! I reminded myself that I needed to be a little more specific with my prayers. I had spent at least 10 minutes looking for it in the surrounding area to no avail. So I headed back to my spot.
I had several more birds fly over…some I made unsuccessful shots, some I didn’t feel were in my shooting range. I had shot about a half a dozen times before I finally had the perfect bird, one bird by itself, fly at about 60 yards in front of me and about 40 yards high. I took the shot. The bird seemed to stop momentarily, a few feathers flew in the wind then the bird tumbled to the field below. I marked it visually with my eyes before I ever took the first step. The cut-over corn made finding anything on the ground hard to see…there were stalks, corn husk, bare corn cobs, and new growth.
I walked within four feet of the bird and finally spotted it. I was excited, MY FIRST DOVE in the bag. FINALLY!! The dove monkey was finally off my back. Whew!! I was just about to give up prior to this shot and head back to the lodge. That wasn’t too bad after all…now I just need to do that again….14 more times. Fifteen birds was the limit.
Well, I did do it again…at least the shooting part and the looking part. I shot 3 birds I never found; I gave each one a 15 minute search. I shot one bird and had to chase it down, finally stepping on its tail feathers only for it to take flight as steady and straight as you please–WITHOUT tail feathers. I had one bird I had to finish off. And I had a bag of bird feathers hanging from my hip; a small bag, mind you. Actually a shell pouch hanging from my belt…yep! I had 5 birds; F-I-V-E!!
I will say that dove hunting makes you VERY tired. I don’t know if it is the sun, the long sit, the walking to retrieve birds or moving to another spot….but I was wore out and didn’t have any strength left in my body. I will be the first to agree, dove hunting is NOT my strongest talent but I gave it my best valiant effort. Would I do it again? Yeah! And I actually did. We went again on Sunday. Same results–but this time I only shot half a box of shells, only lost one bird and still came home without enough harvest for a decent meal.