Memories of a dove opener long ago
I will never forget my first dove hunt, with my late hunting and fishing buddy, Bruce Hankins. In Indiana.
Back then, Ohio still was wrestling with the dove hunting issue – a nonissue today – but “Bruno,” as we knew him, had had plenty of great shoots down South (he spent time growing up in Florida). And he had decided it was long overdue for his “little brother” to be introduced to some of wingshooting’s – and the table’s – finest gamebirds.
We dutifully had jumped through the nonresident licensing hoops, had scouted some public hunting areas in northeast Indiana, and arrived at our chosen hunting area one Aug. 31 some 35 years ago. Bruno wanted to check the place out the afternoon before the Sept. 1 opener. We found some lovely sunflower plots, with hunting stakes marked for shooting sites. You picked a stake and that was your spot for the day.
It turned out that Bruno and I were the only guns who showed up in this particular plot on that long ago Indiana opener. It was a blazing hot, clear day. We sat on overturned five-gallon buckets, with big water jugs full of cubes clinking in ice-water, sandwiches, and shellbags. He warned me to bring plenty of 7-1/2s or 8s, for the national average then was something like 8 shots per bird bagged. I could hardly believe we would shoot that many shells. Silly me.
Doves are fast and flighty, not relatively lumbering, straight-line-flushing ring-necked pheasants. They jink, twist, dive, swoop at 55-60 mph. Sometimes you think that they do not even know what direction they will flap next. In any case, the initiation into dove hunting and shooting is a humbling experience.
Doves limits are generous – Ohio’s now is 15 birds a day. But while Bruno and I did well enough on my baptismal shoot, we did not take limits. The shell empties, though, told the truth about the dove’s ability to challenge a gunner’s skills.
Bruno not only loved to hunt doves, he loved to eat them too. It is easy to breast-out the edible portion and my-oh-my, rolled in seasoned flour and pan-seared in hot peanut oil – a delicacy for a king. I have served them even to nonhunters who scarfed down my “gray-winged pigeon.”
Ohio’s doves season opens Sept. 1. If your wingshooting skills are rusty, burn some powder and shot on some clay targets this month. Scout a likely dove field, whether a prepared state public hunting area or a private plot. Hint: Besides the hallmark sunflower plots, cutover wheatfields are great if not plowed down. Same for harvested tomato fields. Doves are seed eaters.
Just be sure to bring that sitting bucket, a jug of ice water, a buddy, your favorite scattergun, and plenty of shells.