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FPM: A Dove Letter to Opening Day

A Dove Letter to Opening Day


Dear Dove Season, 

It's been a mighty hot wait for your date to appear on my calendar but it's almost here. I have cleaned my bucket of mulch and fish scales in preparation for ice and feathers. The rotating seat now grinds a little harder from the built up grit and the duct tape field repair of the cushion might need to be replaced. The trusty Remmington 1187, propped up in the closet since last year’s last shoot, has gotten a little rusty and so have I. It’s been a little difficult finding shells but I’m glad to have a place to hunt. The farmer tells me that the corn and sunflowers are coming up good with all of these afternoon storms. He even said there are more resident birds hanging out than last year. About a week ago we cooked the final bag of last year’s haul and there ain’t nothing quite as good as a popper. The 3rd of September this year can’t come soon enough. I look forward to your arrival and may there be many birds above.   

Feathered Skies,

Charles 


There’s a dying breed of outdoorsmen that believe the first Saturday in September should be a national holiday and take the day off regardless. The dirt patch serving as a parking lot nestled within a shady grove feels like a game day as tailgates are dropped for seating, beers are koozied for drinking, and the food is ready for eating. It’s the kickoff to dove season. 

 

Few hunting environments match the social energy of a dove shoot. There is likely a big barbecue for lunch and plenty of dirt clog kicking in anticipation for the spot draw. Old friends exchange tales about the various game they harvested over the past year. Someone always has a new gun believing their previous firearm to be the critical factor for all of their misses. The lot is patterned with an eclectic collection of camo ranging from Military surplus to Realtree Bottomland to TSG Oxbow™. Kids run between cars waving falling oak boughs in a modern day duel of young knights. Depending on the size of the field and the benevolence of the farmer, there can be as many as 30 guns swinging around. A whistle cuts the grove, gathering everyone around to reinforce the rules of the hunt.      

First described in 1731 by an English naturalist named Catesby, the Mourning Dove (Zenaida macrours) is America’s most abundant and most harvested game species. Catesby called it the “Carolina Turtledove” which he encountered millions during his research of fauna in the area. Today, the population hovers around 350 million birds with about 20 million harvested annually. This unique fowl has adapted very well as indicated by its range stretching from coast to coast and Canada through South America. Unaffected by brackish water, a dove can survive in harsh desert climates just as well as it could in the trees beyond your yard. However, breeding pairs mate for life presenting potential population issues if too many are taken. Despite the monogamy, pairs can have up to 6 broods of two eggs a year thus balancing the harvest that occurs on fields across the country.   

Tucking upside down 5-gallon buckets in between the last few rows of parched sunflowers, shooters scan the sky for 4 ounces of flight evasively swooping at 55 mph. The social nature of the event continues into the field as the hunters call out birds for each other, “Larry, coming over the hedge.” Two rushed shots, a hail mary, and no feathers catch the unsuccessful shooter quite a bit of grief. There are always a few dogs in the field brought along to fill in the role of retriever. The old dogs know ‘when they’re hunter gets up, they get up.’ New dogs cannot control the urge to explore the entire field before receiving a good beating then nestling in only to spring from the brush at every gunshot. Some retrievers are sons and daughters brought along for their first hunt with the adults. Unable to hold a gun up, the kids compete against the dogs to see who can retrieve faster. That was my introduction to dove hunting as I searched for grasshoppers and marked downed birds. 

 

The North Carolina Dove Season this year is September 3 – October 1 | November 5 – November 26 | December 10, 2022 - January 31, 2023. The daily limit this year is 15 birds per person, 3 can be taken per day with a falcon. Remember to alway make sure you have your plug in your gun and that your hunting license is up to date. Opening day can be a field day for Game Wardens so don’t be an idiot. 


Charles Hargrove | Shopkeeper | Tight Line Enthusiast 

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