Sunday, September 06, 2009

Change of Scenery

I guess all that was needed was a change...

I decided to hunt section #2435 tonight. It's in Blackland, TX and I had scoped out the field last week. It is a 160 acre field with a V shaped border facing a couple of farm roads. It's unimproved pasture, so it doesn't have anything to pull in the doves other than a small tank, which is where I parked, with my back to the boundary (and a tree to provide some cover and shade).

I set my decoys up at the edge of the water and waited. I got their about 4pm, so I expected some company but there was no one there. I began to wonder if this was going to be a good spot after all. The fact that I didn't see any dove and didn't hear anyone shooting in the distance and I really started to wonder if this was going to be a continuation of the slow action from last week.

About thirty to forty-five minutes later others started arriving, and so did the doves.

It's amazing to see the difference in some people. Some were very courteous, apologizing as they walked past me to get to their spot. Others - they just took up a spot that was well within shooting distance and within the range of fire. I couldn't believe this idiot twosome who sat right along the water not 50 yards from me. As they eyed my decoys, I spoke up - I was afraid they were gonna shoot them, they moved on...what a bunch of bozos.

Regardless, having other shooters in the area helps stir up the birds. In fact, the one I bagged tonight was driven right to me from another group of shooters who missed. I used to not want to see others around - like all of the dove were just for me and I didn't want to share the area with them. Now, I want to see others around and hear them shooting. If often means that the birds are headed in my direction. The fact of the matter is that some of the nicest people I have met are the hunters with which I share public land. They are friendly, helpful, willing to share information and tips, and (for the most part) are respectful of rules, courtesy, and fair chase.

I ended shooting about a box worth of shells. There was a lot of stop and go action. The bird I harvested approached me head on (after being fired on). As I stood up to take aim, veered to my left a little. I led him perfectly and fired. He folded and dropped. Unfortunately, he dropped on the wrong side of the boundary fence by about 15 feet - and in some pretty thick stuff. I decided to quickly jump the fence and look for him. About twenty minutes later, I gave up - frustrated again.

I went to sit and hunted for about another half hour when I got up and searched some more. I was so pissed that I couldn't find another and I knew about where he landed, I really spotted it well when it fell. After about five minutes I found him - my first of the season. Unfortunately, some fire ants found him, too, so I had to clean them off of him - getting stung a couple times in the process. It was worth it.

After hunting several more hours and shooting and missing a lot, I called it a night. I know it's only one, but hopefully I'll add to him and turn a small snack into a meal. I used my vacuum packer that Angie bought me last Christmas for the first time, so I have one little dove breast in the freezer. This one has my sister's name on it, but I'm hoping for many more.


Friday, September 04, 2009

Half The Battle

I was back at it this morning. I'm lucky - I can go hunt for a couple hours and still be at work around 9AM.

I went to the same location as on Wednesday, location #2266 in Royce City. I brought my dove decoys with me on this one. I'm not entirely convinced they work - certainly not like duck decoys, but hey - any little bit helps.

I set the mojo dove with a couple of still ones and prepared for the action. I immediately noticed that it was very still - not a breeze to speak of which made it a little steamy. I soon found out that the birds were as still as the wind. There was nothing for at least an hour.

In fact, I didn't even hear a lot of shots around me. There was a father/son duo to my right about 100 yards away and I never heard them shoot - not once. There were only a couple of shots in the distance. Apparently, there were no doves flying. Perhaps the thunderstorms that moved in last night changed their behavior.

After a couple of hours, and as many birds you could count on one hand - A pair came in - they approached me a little left to right. As they entered into range, I shot. The dove folder and fell. Unfortunately, it fell into about 5 foot high grass and weeds about 20 yards away. I marked the spot and started to retrieve. I had to cross a very steep dry creek and when I took my eyes off the location I lost the spot. I knew the general location so I headed over and started the search. I looked through that stuff which was very thick for a half hour. I couldn't find my bird. Their coloring makes them disappear on the ground and unless the field is tilled, it is very hard to find them. I hate that. It seems wasteful, and frankly I don't get enough not to harvest what I shoot. Makes me really want a dog as shooting them is only half the work necessary to harvest.

I returned to my spot empty handed and continued for a little while longer, not seeing any more doves.

I did check out a new spot about 20 minutes to the south, in Blackland. As I drove there, I saw a great many dove...on the power lines, on the side of the road, on fences and in flight. By the time I got to the new spot it was passed the good time to hunt, but I hope to try it out this weekend. Maybe a afternoon hunt on Sunday.

In addition to that, Angie agreed to a weekend dove hunt/camping trip. Not sure where we will go yet, but we're thinking of taking a road trip down south a little.

Anyone have any suggestions as to where there's good dove numbers on accessible land?


Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Optimism Remains

The first time out is preceded by an optimism like no other.

I figured since this was only the second morning of the season and I've seen a lot of dove all over the place that I would have fast and furious action for a while. As I drove to my spot, I scared up a good number of dove that were feeding in the road. In fact, within 10 minutes of legal shooting time, I had my first shot at a dove crossing from right to left. I missed, but the familiar adrenalin rush was back and thoughts of a freezer full of dove breast began to coalesce in my mind. I was sure that this is the year I get to try out my vacuum sealer to keep a couple examples of that wonderful dark meat dove breast in good condition for my sister's visit in November.

We'll, that was at 6:40am and a lot changed from that point. I sat and scoured the skies for flights of doves for several hours this morning. I took four shots in total, all misses. All of the doves I shot at were singles flying right to left. I saw several more flights, most out of range and one pair that snuck up on me. By the time I saw them, my chance to shoot was gone.

However, there were a number of shotgun blasts all around me. Clearly, there were doves flying - just not so much in my area. Although I was well concealed, the recently harvested field I was hunting over must not have provided enough food and the trees to my back must not have been roosting spots.

Even without a ton of action and with no success, I still love being out in the field. I enjoyed the orange sun as it rose through a clearing in the trees to my back. As I sat there, I thought of what being outdoors means to me. After a long hot summer, being outside before the sun came up was a wonderful change. In fact, it was a little cool this morning. There was a breeze which made the temperature perfect. It was so refreshing - sort of like an ice cold glass of bottled water. The tap is good, but not nearly as much as a glass from the bottle (at least here in Dallas). Being outside was like that. It IS like that. Especially after being cooped up all summer.

Maybe that's why I love dove hunting so much - or all hunting. I am outside, not in a centrally air conditioned house or outside sweating my you-know-whats-off, but outside drinking in the fresh air, the sounds of nature and connecting with the earth, and with God. When hunting alone, I can spend much of my time in prayer conversing with the Almighty. When not alone (usually with Dylan), dove hunting affords an opportunity to talk - as silence isn't nearly as important as concealment.

So, although I got skunked today, it was great to be out. I don't know if I will have a lot of success this year, but it won't be for lack of trying.

And, as I departed the hunting area, I passed a field of milo that hasn't been harvested yet. I know where my next hunting spot is going to be.

It would seem that my optimism remains.