Sunday, August 28, 2011

Anticipation and Adjusting Expectations

It may not feel like it.  No, it doesn't even feel like it is remotely close, but Fall is coming.  Crisp cool mornings, chilly nights, and the Fall hunting seasons are drawing closer despite the fact that the dog days of Summer continue to beat down on us all.  As August passes, I am filled with anticipation and engage in preparations for the upcoming dove season.  When I was a boy, I wouldn't do much prep for the season except buy shells and put a plug in my shotgun (as required for migratory birds), but now I seem to do a little more.  This isn't because I need to prepare more.  I do it to feel like I am moving myself closer to the long anticipated beginning of the multiple hunting seasons where I will pursue dove, deer, quail, turkeys, and maybe even some predators.

This August is much like last year, except it is hotter and dryer.  Consistent with last year, I again signed up for a dove lease with DFW Hunt so that I can hunt near my home after work and on the weekends.  There are many dove lease outfitters in the area, but these guys work hard to have detailed aerial maps available for all the fields, provide advice based on their scouting, and are a pleasure to deal with.  Also, I received a discount for buying my lease earlier in the year and by providing them a video I created for their web site.

Last weekend was the "Dove Tour" of the fields available North of DFW and I attended as part of my pre-season scouting.  It was obvious from the tour, that this year will be really tough.  The birds appear to be concentrated in a few areas and it will mean that there will also be a concentration of dove hunters in those same few areas.

This weekend I returned to the dove fields to do some early morning scouting.  I started with my favorite field from last year.  I parked in the center of the pasture, got out my 10X50 Leopold binos, and started glassing.  I saw a sly coyote in the distance trotting through a cut Milo field, slipping in-between cows as he works his way across the field looking for rodents and rabbits.  I saw giant clouds of starlings and purple martins pass over head, but the skies were devoid of dove.  I did catch a glimpse of two mourning doves speeding across a field low to the ground, but they were about a quarter mile away.

No Doves Here

I drove to the next field a few miles down the road.  Last year this field was planted with Milo and had been cut prior to dove season.  The scattered grain left by the harvesters was a feast for the doves and it was obvious as large groups of birds poured into and out of this field.  This year the field had been planted to wheat and the crop was very poor, yielding little grain.  There was little to no activity in this field except for doves moving from a wooded area across the field and traveling to the next dove field South across the road.  This field will be the epicenter of activity come opening morning.  It was planted with Milo, but had been cut for hay due to the poor crop.  Despite the fact that it didn't make enough grain for harvest, the hay bailing process had scattered what little Milo seed there was all over the field.  Massive flocks of white wing doves circle this field and roost along the high lines and in the surrounding trees.

Glassing another field without many sightings

White Wing Doves resting after feasting on Milo

As the sun rose so did the temperatures.  I headed back home to grab a quick lunch and to head down to Irving to get some practice at the gun club.  I grew up shooting skeet and trap, but I have taken up shooting a new game called five stand.  This is much like sporting clays, but you shoot 25 shots from five locations with different combinations from six different clay pigeon throwers.  I like it because it provides multiple shot situations and is good preparation for bird hunting.

a Five Stand shooting field

Eye and Ear Protection, Check!

I also expanded my fleet of dove decoys by 100 percent!  I bought an additional Mojo Dove decoy bringing my total decoys to two (impressive, I know)!  I became a firm believer in this decoy last year and since Cabela's was having a sale and was selling them for $30 instead of $40, I had to purchase one!   That's funny, I now sound like my wife.

The final item on my check list to prepare for dove season is that I must adjust my expectations for this year's season.  In the past I have measured the success of a dove hunting outings based on the number of birds in my bag.  A limit of birds would be success and anything less, well it isn't.  This year looks tough, so I am redefining my terms to harvesting enough birds for a few dinners and enjoying the great outdoors with fellow sportsman.  If I get a limit it will be a bonus.  Good luck everyone.  Shoot strait and most of all, be safe!

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