It was a too-hot summer’s last blast, those days leading up to
Labor Day weekend, and I sought the meager shade of a little
sapling in 90-plus degree mid afternoon sun in which to set
Cool weather – perhaps too cool for the activity in which I was
engaged – was due within 72 hours. So setting and sweating had to
be endured as part of the game.
I had a jug full of ice water next to my perch, and an
overturned, camo-painted, five-gallon bucket topped with my padded
turkey hunting seat. A camo shooting bag lie next to the jug,
packed with cheese crackers, hard candy, compact binoculars, and
lots of shells. Oh yes, lots of shells. I figured on burning up
quite a few before sunset.
My favorite shotgun, a sleek, too-pretty 12-gauge side-by-side, lie
easily across my lap, and my old G.I. Boonie hat and a pair of
shooting glasses (which I later stepped on in the excitement and
bent to heck) completed the kit. Such is the sit-rep for the
opening day dove hunter in Ohio Territory.
Our crew boss, Donnie Schooner, assigned me to the distant end
of the shooting field he had so carefully prepared all summer. It
was not within the prime of the kill zone, where the moto-doves and
decoys were clustered, but I didn’t mind a bit and Donnie knew it.
I’ve been there, done that, and got the T-shirt with doves and I
knew that on any given day any shooting post may draw the hot hand.
Doves never know where, or how, they are going to fly. Besides, I’m
an edge or fringe kind of guy.
As our crew was setting up, our “lookouts” killed three drive-by
birds. Always keep lookouts posted. But with a daily bag of 15, we
had miles to go. On station, it was a story of patience, patience,
patience in the dripping heat, and hawk-eyes in the back of your
head. Scan, scan, scan. The second your attention drifts into a
daydream, or you stop to try and re-jigger those shooting glasses
you stepped on, zoom! In they come, from nowhere. The birds that
tantalizingly roost in dead trees along the railroad tracks – you
can see them but not touch them – never seem to come in.
Doves can fly at 35 to 40 mph in dead calm, without their
afterburners engaged and not counting any boosts from tailwind. And
that doesn’t count their twisty-turny-corkscrewy flight patterns,
which too often zig when your swing zags and the hammer drops. You
never seem to lead them enough. Too often, it is my left barrel
that kills the bird; it pays to keep swings and not give up.
It also pays to have a good retriever. Dead doves, even
well-marked, can defy the most determined eye-searches, but they do
not escape a canine nose. Dave Gyurica, a Fremont dog man who
usually guides for pheasants at WR Hunt Club in Clyde, was engaged
by our crew this year; actually it was his fine little black Lab,
Mattie, who did the engaging. Nice work.
For gunners who have not tried dove hunting, they are missing out
on some of the most challenging wingshooting around.
For the rest of this story, see the Sept. 16 issue of Ohio