Saturday, January 21, 2012

End of the Hunting Season Ritual (Part 1)


Last week here in Central Montana the Hunting season for Ducks and Geese came to a end. The general "bird season" ended January 1st, that is for all upland birds including Pheasants, Hun's, and Sharptail Grouse. It is always a sad week for those who love to hunt, and for bird hunters, it is that time of year to prepare your guns for the eight month lay-off of being stored away, for yet another season which will resume on the first week in September 2012. I use three different shotguns during the hunting season. In September, I usually start hunting with my Remington wing- master, 20 gauge, upland model. I have had this gun for 20 years, it still has an excellent action, and over the past 20 years it has only jammed once, due to heavy shooting and my lack of cleaning the gun properly. It is an extremely light gun that is easy to walk with during the heat of September while I hunt Doves, Hun's, and Sharpies. In September I will hunt only early mornings, or, evenings due to the normal heart of the long September days. My black Lab Pearl does not take the heat well, and frankly, nor do I. Most birds are feeding in the cooler parts of the day, so this works out all the way around.
One September many years ago, I found an area with quite a few Mourning Doves that were resting on telephone lines right above a wheat stubble field that was freshly harvested. In between the field and just below the telephone lines was a irrigation ditch beaming with clean, clear water. The road I was driving was small gravel, it was a perfect place to expect many more doves in the field itself, than just the twenty or so birds I was seeing resting on the wires. There was a farm house at the far end of the wheat field, I dove in and asked the farmer if he minded me walking his field to shoot some doves. The cover-all wearing farmer was extremely friendly and told me to help myself.  I started just near the house, all shooting would be away from the house, so I could feel free to shoot and not worry about  shooting towards the white, red trimmed ranch style house.  The field  itself was around 60-80 acres, it was great bird cover for stubble, it was thick and golden in color, cut long with a good  five to six  inches standing erect toward the sky. My first few step got doves to flush, much like Quail, or, Hun's, small covey's of six to ten birds erupting quickly from the golden cover, and diverting into smaller pairs in all directions. I doubled on the first flush, my heart was racing trying to stay focused thinking of just how many birds there might be hiding and feeding in the newly cut wheat. While my black lab Pearl was retrieving the two downed birds, she flushed two other covey's, these two groups flew wildly in all directions, just out of shooting range. I called Pearl back, we rested for a short while and the resumed walking in a different direction. In less than three minutes we were into Doves once again, this time there was around five or six small covey's, I doubled once again, marked the downed birds and watch the lucky ones fly to the south eastern part of the field, and much to my surprise, land and presume feeding. This field was a Dove magnet, it had everything  they needed, it had good quality food, the stubble was long and thick for cover, there was water right there, plus gravel, and , the wires were a perfect perch.
It didn't take long to shoot four more birds, I had my "limit" and was more than satisfied for the quality and style of this Dove hunt. It was one of the first times that I was able to shoot doves in the classic rise form that one thinks of while shooting upland birds. Since this experience, I have looked forward to the early season, and spend my days trying to replicate this very special experience. It's never easy, the fields are rotated, some years are dryer than other, conditions are never the same, but , I continue to pursue the perfect dove field once again. (Part 2) on a later day...

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