By Chris Ellis
For The Register-Herald
The turning of the calendar from August to September is an important occasion for hunters. Last Monday, Labor Day, the unofficial start to the 2013 hunting season occurred. For many West Virginia hunters, the opener meant dove hunting.
Steeped in southern tradition, a dove shoot can be quite the affair. I have heard tales of exquisite barbecue lunch spreads, elaborate stands overlooking acres of grain crops, bird processing for the guests at the end of the day and, of course, lots of talk of high-end shotguns. Many southern plantations celebrate the start of the hunting season with a major gathering, and getting an invitation to such an event generally means you are well connected in the social scene.
If, like mine, your invitation got lost in the mail this year there is no need to fret. Besides, there’s no reason to publicly humiliate yourself with rusty wingshooting in front of a group of distinguished guests. Let me tell you about another little known secret — Sept. 2 is not the only day you can go dove hunting. In fact, West Virginia has a three-part season that runs from Sept. 2 to Oct. 5, from Oct. 21 to Nov. 9, and from Dec. 23 to Jan. 4.
To get in the game, and even throw your own dove-shooting extravaganza, all you really need are a few basic necessities.
First off, you need to scout a field. Doves need food, water, grit and a place to roost. If you have access to agriculture lands, excellent. Cherish that land owner’s permission and guard your secret well. If there are no active farms nearby, no sweat. Look for hayfields or fields with thistle. Doves are seed-eaters — find the right field full of plants going to seed and bingo! Fields next to gravel roads or ones with ponds are a bonus.
Next you need concealment. Like most birds, doves have keen eyes and can spot you from the air easily. Find a brush pile, hay bale or make your own hiding spot from whatever nature provides. A little camouflage clothing goes a long way too.
Although a fine shotgun designed for wing-shooting is nice, so is driving a Mercedes-Benz. At least that’s what I’ve been told. In reality any shotgun that feels comfortable and one you can learn to shoot will work. Load it with some game loads, with shot sizes of 7 or 8, and you will be missing doves like the pros in no time. (Be sure you understand all dove-specific hunting rules before you hit the field by reading up on the WVDNR Migratory Bird Hunting Regulations.) Finally, always take more shotshells than you think you'll need. Doves have humiliated many a good man and have been directly related to shotguns being placed on bulletin boards listed as “For Sale.” Studies indicate dove hunters average about three birds bagged per box of shotgun shells.
Dove hunting is easy and fun. All you need is a good field, a place to sit comfortably in hiding, a cooler lunch and a few friends who won’t rib you too much for missing the easiest shots ever taken in the history of the sport of wing-shooting.
Who knows, maybe next year your dove shoot might be the event to attend. If so, can you kindly invite your buddy, the local outdoor writer from the paper? I promise not to laugh and I’ll bring you a few boxes of shells.