Doves hard to hit, but fun in the field
Nuts, missed. Nuts, missed again And a third time.
The one box of 12-gauge “low brass” loads was quickly becoming depleted. Not that I didn’t come prepared, with four more boxes held in reserve.
That’s the thing about dove – and also, dove hunting. No bird is more humbling to hunt (and hit) than is the mourning dove. That, plus doves are what keeps shotgun ammunition companies in business. Or so it seems.
And it seemed that I was in dire straights at collecting enough doves to breast out for a dinner prepared by my wife, Bev.
At least, though I was into birds. Thanks entirely to fellow Ohio Outdoor News reporter John Hageman. Trapper John had come across a harvested wheat field in Wood County, the exact location of which is a declared a “Top Secret” spot, that contained a few hundred doves.
Which was far more than what I found the morning after Ohio’s dove opener. I hunted the Mosquito Creek Wildlife Area’s dove field Sept. 2 and saw as many sandhill cranes as I did mourning doves: Five of each species to be exact.
So, when Hageman invited me to spend Labor Day morning hunting doves with him I said good-bye to sleep. Arisng at a gosh-aweful hour and putting more than 140 miles on my Jeep I drove to where John had instructed me to program my GPS.
Sure enough, the plucked wheat field was a bountiful banquet for the birds which readily blitzed the property for waste grain. And there was more than enough wheat kernels for a passel of doves. The birds were slow to hit the field but began arriving in earnest around 7:45 a.m., just as Hageman said they would.
And Hageman was having far better success at piling up the doves, mostly due to his better shooting.
Never-the-less, I was making some headway to collecting a future meal of dove breasts wrapped in strips of bacon, a traditional dinner of the birds.
And that tradition is enormously popular. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reports that for 2018 (the last year statistics are available), 694,000 people in the U.S. hunted doves. They shot 10.4 million birds.
There were more dove hunters and more birds killed only seven years earlier, however: 955,700 dove hunters and 17 million birds killed.
All of which is a drop in the bucket as estimates place the country’s dove population at one-quarter billion birds.
In Ohio, the Ohio Division of Wildlife uses the required Migratory Bird Harvest Information Program – or “HIP” – to determine that there are 10,500 dove hunters in the state and they kill on average 132,000 birds annually. That translates into an average of just shy of 13 birds per participant.
Nationally, it is estimated that it takes a hunter between five and seven shotshells to kill each bird that person puts into a game vest. Some statistics go so far as to say the real figure is closer to 12 rounds per dove.
Let’s extrapolate with some simple math. We’ll use the minimum figure of five shotshells per bird. Multiply that figure by the estimated number of birds taken annually and we see a statistic of 52 million rounds of shotgun shells being used nationally.
Go with the higher figure of 12 rounds per bird and the amount of shotgun shells used to hunt doves leaps to just under 125 million rounds. Wow.
At least I know I’m helping to keep the ammunition industry in robust health and the dove population from crashing. At least in Wood County, anyway.