This Saturday (Sept. 1) marks the opening of the first of the fall hunting seasons here in the Lone Star state, and across much of the country. Those of us that love to hunt dream of cooler fall days that are usually associated with hunting.
Hunting early season doves is a far different proposition than setting in a duck blind in December. Dealing with the heat is one of the biggest challenges we’ll face when we settle down around that stock tank or cut over grain filed during the next few weeks.
Brownwood dove and deer hunting outfitter David Davis has put thousands of dove hunters in the field through the years and, as he says, he has learned a few things about locating good fields, through osmosis if nothing else, and creating a hunting environment that is actually enjoyable.
“It’s easy to sit under the AC and dream of hunting doves but actually being in a dove field when the sun is shining bright and temperatures are approaching 100 degrees is a different proposition,” Davis said. “We hunt doves during early morning and late afternoon for several reasons. More comfortable conditions certainly rate high on the list but they are not at the top.”
Doves can feed throughout the day but the first two or three hours after daybreak and the last three or four hours in the afternoon are the very best times to be in the field, and that’s when Davis has his clients “on station.”
“Some hunters make a day long event out of dove hunting,” Davis said. “If they don’t shoot their limit during the first few hours of the hunt, they stay in the field, often walking tree lines in attempts to jump shoot the birds. This practice may add a few birds to one’s daily bag limit but it also pushes birds out of the area.
“Doves, just like people, like to loaf during the heat of mid-day and they often do so in the shade of big trees or even high line wires. Disrupting them during this loafing period will greatly lessen ones odds of a successful afternoon shoot, assuming a limit was not bagged during the morning hours.”
Davis meets his clients well before sunup and has them in their prospective fields by legal shooting time. When shooting is good, many limit out in the first couple hours. The ones that still have a few birds to bag had the afternoon hunt to look forward to and, almost as important, a few hours to cool off back at the motel room, waiting and resting before the next hunt.
Davis says many of his clients that drive a few hours to get to the dove infested fields around Brown County often shoot half their limit of birds in the morning and wait until the afternoon hunt to attempt to limit out.
“This makes for an enjoyable hunt,” Davis said. “The alternative is to shoot a limit during the first few hours of the day, rush back to the motel and drive several hours back home. Why not take it easy and savor the outing?”
Staying legal is another big part of dove hunting, one in which the hunter is ultimately responsible. Hunters should never ‘pool’ birds into one pile. It’s important to keep the birds separated during and after the hunt. It’s a good idea to keep a small cooler handy and place the birds in it the moment they are retrieved.
One last thing to remember when hunting doves away from home. If you’re staying in a motel in a town such as Brownwood or Hamilton, where dove numbers are usually high, most motel owners have cleaning stations where you can breast your doves after the hunt. But, if you’re hunting two days, remember that you certainly will not want to have the previous day’s limit in the field while you are actively attempting another limit. Most motel owners will allow you to leave your cooler there and pick it up on the way home after the second day’s hunt. That way, you can check out during the early morning hours without renting the room for another day.
I always carry a magic marker and gallon zip lock bags. Each day’s harvest is placed in a separate bag and my name, date and number of birds harvested is marked clearly on the bag. While this is not the law, it does makes it much easier to keep records of when the doves were harvested, just in case a game warden might inquire.
Granted, our long wait until the opener of fall hunting seasons it once again upon us but remember, it’s still HOT here in the Lone Star State. Plan your hunt accordingly and remember if you are unable to be in the field on opening day, hunting is often excellent a couple weeks into the season when the migration of northern birds begins!
To book a dove hunt with outfitter David Davis, please call 325-642-9021.