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Dove Opener 2018 BY Gary Howey

  The sun was beginning to makes its decent into the western sky as I pulled into the field where we would park our pickups on opening day of the Nebraska dove season.

   We had planned this hunt later in the day as the hours from about five pm to sundown is generally an excellent time of the day to set up and hunt doves near ponds.  Dove, after feeding, like to come to water to drink before going into the trees to roost for the night.

  I had not so patiently waited for this year’s dove season and was more than ready for the hunt as everything was ready the week prior to Saturdays dove hunting season.  

  I had my upland game permit & stamps, my hip number, which is required in Nebraska and a method the Game & Parks uses to get an idea on what species of migratory birds you hunted in the previous year.

  My shotgun was cleaned, I had checked its choke to make sure I would be shooting an improved cylinder choke, checked to make sure I had my plug in, as when hunt migratory birds you are not allowed to holds more than three shells in your shotgun.

  I had located my hunting vest along with the rest of my camo and hunting clothing in my back office, Camo is not terribly important when hunting doves, but it allows the hunter to blend in with the terrain he is hunting.

  My vest pockets had been loaded with AA loads and because I did not want to run out of ammo again, as I had while defending the base perimeter from a bunker we were manning during an extended firefight in Viet Nam, I had stashed an additional shotgun shells, a full case in my truck.

  As there are times when hunting doves, you need to walk a ways to get to the location you plan to hunt; it is a good idea to have a bucket or two along to transport your gear. I carry two; a six-gallon bucket filled with my decoys and ammo along with a swivel seat, which is the perfect height for me to set on as it is comfortable, allowing me to turn from side to side without much movement.

  I also bring along a five-gallon bucket  that holds the rest of my essential dove hunting gear, insect repellent, Hornady Hearing Protectors, water and a couple of salted nut rolls just in case I get hungry.

  Arriving at our designated time, Anthony Thoene, Hartington, NE. one of my hunting partners was there waiting for me, his brother Dani, would join us later, completing our threesome.

  It was the first day of the 2018 Dove season and Anthony, his brother Dani and I hoped to have a good dove shoot as we did several years back as we were hunting the same dam, with very similar hunting conditions. On that hunt, the birds started coming in early, beginning around five in groups of eight to ten and continued to come in throughout late afternoon.

  On that hunt, empty shotgun casings, both twenty and twelve gauge covered the ground around us as we did our best to drop one bird for every ten shots, which is said to about the average shells expended per bird for the average hunter.

  We were fortunate in a way, as we had received rain through the better parts of June, July and into August, filling the pond we were hunting.

   In years past, when the dam was not holding the water, the Thoene brothers installed a liner in the depression,  in hopes of getting enough water in the dam to allow the cattle as well as the doves to have a place to drink.

  For two years, the pond remained either dry or not enough water there to interest the cattle as well as the doves.

  This year, the ponds throughout northeast Nebraska all had water, giving the doves numerous of places to get a drink before going to roost.

  We knew that ponds with high line poles or dead tree close by would attract doves as they like to land and check things out before coming down to drink. [Read more…]

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Dove Hunt Etiquette

With dove season just around the corner, it’s not a bad idea to keep these 10 dove hunting etiquette tips on your mind.

  1. Don’t race to the field and hog the best spots. Make sure the older shooters have access to shade first. If the birds are flying, hopefully everyone will get some shooing. If not, make sure to rotate spots.
  2. Try to camouflage your spot the best you can to keep from flaring birds that are entering the field. Take care to hide vehicles.
  3. Do NOT shoot low birds. Help to warn others and holler “low bird” to the other shooters.
  4. Space yourself safely away from the next hunter.
  5.  Make sure you don’t kill birds that fall into areas where they can’t be retrieved.
  6. Pick up your empty shells and trash.
  7. Obey the game laws.
  8. If you kill your limit, move out so someone who hasn’t had as much shooting can have some action.
  9. Alert the hunters next to you as birds approach, and ask them to do the same for you.
  10. Don’t “burn out” the field. Always try to stop early so the remaining birds can feed. 

[Read more…]

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Dove Hunting They Zig when you Zag By Gary Howey

  As the sun rises on Saturday, September 1, in South Dakota, Nebraska and throughout the upper Midwest, look for hunters set up on their favorite pond, around sunflower, millet, wheat or CRP fields and near shelterbelts to take a shot at dove hunting. 

Take a shot, may not be the correct words as it may take many shots to down these small birds when the dove hunting seasons opens.

  Believe it or not, doves are the number one game bird in America, forty-two states having dove seasons with over 20 million birds harvested each year. Even, with this large of number of doves taken, their population is growing and the range expanding.

Dove hunting is a challenging sport, as doves are the aerial acrobats of the bird kingdom. They seldom fly straight, darting and dodging from side to side, changing altitude in the blink of an eye as they zig-zag their way across the sky.

It does not take much of a load to bring down a dove, just as long as you can catch up with and get a bead on the little buggers. 

It takes a while to get onto hunting doves, so do not lose your faith and feel bad if you miss several birds, as studies indicate that the average dove hunter will shoot as many as ten shells for each bird that he drops.

I am sure ammunition manufacturers lick their chops because they know that ammunition sales are going to skyrocket just prior to the dove opener.

You can hunt doves with any gauge shotgun, with those hunters I hunt with use every gauge imaginable, hunting with twelve, twenty, twenty-eight and even four-ten gauge shotguns.

When it comes to what what shells to use, we pretty much agree on Winchester AA, eight or nine loads.

Our plan on opening day is to set up around a farm pond or stock pond, with our most productive hunting occurring in the  late afternoon until sun down, as doves make their way to these areas for water just prior to going to roost.

The ponds you want to set up on should have open ground around the edge, those with dead or dying trees nearby really attract the birds as they give doves a place to light, rest and observe the pond before flying down. 

Doves are not in a hurry to do anything until you take a shot at them, as they will set in the trees, on power lines or  hill above a pond for long periods before coming in.

The reason open ground around a pond is important because that is where the birds land before they will saunter down to the water.

Those ponds with heavy vegetation along the edge do not attract doves because the heavy cover makes it impossible for the birds to get to the water to drink.

When hunting around ponds, a good hunting dog is necessity, as much of your shooting will be over water and a dog can retrieve those doves that come down in the pond.   

Doves love weed seed, preferring hemp-marijuana and ragweed. If the pond you are hunting has a weed patch nearby, chances are there will be plenty of dove activity in the area.

When hunting ponds, your best hunting is if there are several groups of hunters on the surrounding ponds, as it keeps the birds moving, jumping from pond to pond.

On larger ponds, it is a good Idea to have several hunters stationed around the water.  Doves are such erratic flyers; you never know from what direction they are coming. By having hunters stationed around the pond or on several different ponds in the area, you have an extra set of eyes letting you know what direction the birds are approaching as well as more shooting opportunities, which helps to keep the birds in the air and on the move.

Hunters will find good numbers of doves in areas adjacent to shelterbelts or heavily wooded areas where the birds roost and near hemp or other weed patches where the birds feed.

During the early season, it does not take much to draw doves into a pond, but as the season progresses, doves become more wary and can be tough to attract.  In the late season, dove decoys will help to bring them in.

  If you use stationary dove decoys, place them as high as possible on the trees as this gives the doves an opportunity to locate and zero in on them at greater distances [Read more…]