There are few things that I anticipate more than opening day of dove season. The opening day is perfectly positioned as a precursor to all other seasons. You know that after opening day, deer season is nearby, along with the appearance of the fall leaves, the chill of the autumn nights, the departure of the pesky gnats and mosquitoes, and the migrations of the various waterfowl.
I grew up dove hunting. It was by far my favorite activity with a firearm. Dove hunting provides the first classroom for many of our young hunters and new adult hunters. First, it usually gives ample opportunity for shooting the shotgun. You may have spells of no activity, but when they fly, it is constant and quick. Usually within a few shots, you self correct and begin to understand how far to lead, what the maximum distances of a successful shot are, and when to take the shot.
It also teaches us patience. During the waits between flights, we enhance our peripheral vision. We spot the birds from great distances, able to recognize their flight pattern and silhouette. Before ever hunting dove, that same bird would have gone unnoticed, not to mention unidentified. These are skills needed as the novice hunter advances to other game.
Dove hunting teaches us how to be safe. We quickly learn how to identify where other hunters are and instinctively know not to shoot in that direction. We let low flying birds pass, shouting it out in order to make other hunters aware that a bird is too low to fire.
We learn the art of camouflage. We use natural colors in our clothing. We nestle in non-descript areas to help shield us from a flying bird’s view.
We recognize possible flight patterns and targets. A lone tree makes a great point of reference for a fast moving bird, as well as a hiding place to dodge the flying lead. This means it is a great location to set up as the birds will tend to target the location.
We learn the feeling of success. One bird or a limit, you will remember the shots made. You replay them, sometimes many years later.
Doves are easy to clean and fairly tasty. Because of this, it is the ideal game for the new hunter to get their hands dirty. Processing your own game, taking it from field to grill, makes the meal that much better. You worked for the nourishment. It was not bought at the store in shrink wrap in the cooler section. It is exactly as God intended. It was taken by man from the land.
And lastly, dove hunting provides the memories for which you never wish to relinquish. The bridge of generations, hunting together, learning from one another. Few other activities can teach so much. Few classrooms can provide so much enjoyment.
If you enjoyed this column, try Bill Howard's Outdoors: Why Hunt?Bill Howard writes a weekly outdoors column for the Wilson Times and Yancey County News and the bowhunting blog site GiveEmTheShaft.com. He is a Hunter Education and International Bowhunter Education instructor, lifetime member of the North Carolina Bowhunters Association, Bowhunter Certification Referral Service Chairman, member and official measurer of Pope and Young, and a regular contributor to North Carolina Bowhunter Magazine.