dove hunting

HUNTING — Zach Rutherford, Joe Martino's brother-in-law, poses with his catch of doves.

Unlike big game hunting, for the most part hunting small game offers participants the opportunity to enjoy each others’ company in a less restrictive atmosphere and to converse, laugh, and just generally cut up and have a good time. Dove hunting is no different, and is now here, having opened on Sept. 1.

Dove season is always long-awaited for me and my family and friends. We look forward to it each year and begin talking about it months in advance, heck all year, really. And each time we do, laughter usually ensues as stories of hunts’ past flow from our lips and rekindle the fond and funny memories, like the year one of my buddies tried making a one-handed shot by swinging around at a passing bird while he was sitting in a lawn chair. This guy isn’t petite. He missed the bird as the aluminum frame of the lawn buckled under him as he turned, crimping itself snugly around his buttocks! The image of him standing up with the chair firmly pressed around his midsection is one I will never forget. Then there was the time that we were hunting in a tomato field and as I went to retrieve a downed bird, I slipped on a rotten tomato, went head over heels, and landed on my back and keister in a bunch of tomatoes! I’ll never forget how I smelled the rest of that day.

Memories such as these, while humorous, are part of what keeps us coming back for more, and are definitely irreplaceable.

With the passing of each season, an increasing number of people want to join us on our dove hunts after hearing of the fun had on most of them. And not just the silly fun either; dove hunting in general is enjoyable, even without the occasional mishaps like the ones mentioned above. Whenever possible, I always try to bring at least one or two new people on a dove hunt so they can see just how enjoyable it can be. Oh sure, I have had plenty of dove hunts that weren’t that fun and caused me to do a lot of walking for few, if any, birds. But that is hunting and it is those hunts that make you appreciate the better ones, and if you have the right company it can always be at least somewhat fun.

Honestly, one of my favorite reasons for hunting doves is because I can take a few people and we can just sit and talk. Sounds crazy, but I like it. Some of the best conversations can be had while sharing a hunt. I have always believed that you may think you know someone, but you don’t really get to know a person until you have been hunting with them. Besides, before the hunt grows too old, we generally have plenty more to talk about as we begin ribbing each other about a recently missed shot opportunity.

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Another reason I enjoy dove hunting so much is because it is perfect for introducing youngsters to hunting. The weather is warm, there are generally numbers of birds in the area, opportunities for a lot of shooting, and they can talk and move a bit when the action is slow. Also, it does not take a huge gun to bring down a dove, meaning kids can get by just fine with a .410- or .20-gauge shotgun. There is nothing technical about dove hunting either, so other than safety and courtesy; you won’t have to confuse youngsters or newcomers with all sorts of rules and lingo.

Yeah, we do a lot of laughing on our dove hunts, but never make safety anything but your first priority. When taking newcomers or youngsters, be aware that when gunning doves they will be required to swing their gun when lining up on incoming birds. Make certain that someone is right there with that person (even if it means setting your gun down to focus on them) aiding them in when and where it is safe to shoot so that they don’t end up swinging their gun on an approaching dove and end up taking an unsafe shot.

A big plus is that other than the possibly hundreds of shells you might shoot, dove hunting is inexpensive. Keep in mind though, that if the birds are working, it really isn’t hard to burn up three or four boxes of shells in an effort to get your 15 bird limit. Trust me, I have done it without limiting out!

I am very thankful for the many friendships that I have been blessed with making through hunting in general, yet most of them were made through small game hunting, especially dove and rabbit hunting. Many of these new friends I see on a regular basis now, while I may see others only during dove season. Nonetheless, when we get together, we simply pick up where we left off and enjoy the camaraderie.

Yes, I am sure glad that dove season’s back. The times spent with my son, brother-in-law, and friends has been a long time coming.