Load up, dove season opens Wednesday

OUTDOORS

August 29, 1993|By LONNY WEAVER

How in the world am I ever going to be able to wait until Wednesday's opening day of dove season? This, above all other hunting and fishing seasons, is the one that excites me the most.

You can bet that from now until Wednesday I'll be prowling favorite hot spots and tying up the telephone trying to find out who's chopping corn, whose wood lots are being used for roosting sites, what farm ponds look good, what times birds are visiting various feeding fields, graveling spots and a dozen other essential details.

From now until the first cold front of the fall arrives we'll be RTC gunning mostly resident mourning doves. And, there are a lot of doves to go gunning for -- in excess of 20 million are bagged each year throughout the country, according to U.S. Fish & Wildlife figures.

And, still the population is on the increase.

Because of the dove's graceful speed and spectacular ability to instantly change directions, the optimistic mark of top scattergunners is the ability to connect on one bird out of every three shots fired.

After participating in hundreds of dove shoots over the course of my 40-plus years, I am inclined to think the average dove hunter comes closer to downing one bird for every six shots.

On most days, when the wind isn't whistling too hard and I'm blessed with easy angles, I probably hit one out of three and, on very good days, may even go 50 percent.

By exercising some thought on the nature of dove hunting coupled with a realistic evaluation of his shooting skills, a hunter can increase his ratio of success by choosing the right gun and load.

You need a shotgun light enough to maneuver quickly, yet heavy enough to maintain a smooth swing and follow-through. At the same time the gun should help to absorb the punishment of 50 or more shots in a relatively short period of time. Nor can you ignore the choice of the correct choke.

Often hunters wrongly associate the dove with small gauges and light loads of small shot without fully considering their true shooting skills.

The top three choke choices for the dove gunner are Skeet, Improved Cylinder and, to a lesser extent, Modified. Except for the inefficient .410, any gauge is quite suitable as long as a good load is chosen.

The very worst load the dove hunter can opt for is the cut-rate box every discount store in the country is trying to push on you every fall.

Pick a quality target or field load.

In 12 gauge, the very best choice is the standard trap load using either No. 7 1/2 or No. 8 shot. In my 20-gauge gun, I load up my pound Winchester Model 12 pump with with 1 ounce of high brass No. 7 1/2 or No. 8. In my little 28-gauge side-by-side, I grab 3/4 -ounce of No. 7 1/2 . Unlike many, I do not like No. 9 shot on doves -- outside of 20 yards they cripple too often, whereas a single No. 7 1/2 pellet will put a dove on the dinner plate to 35 yards or more.

Hunting hours during this Sept. 1-Oct. 23 hunt are noon to sunset. The daily limit is 12, and all you need is a Maryland hunting license to participate.

MSSA Tournament winners

Edgewater's Leonard Baumgardner's 97 1/2 -pound bluefin tuna was the winner in this year's Maryland Saltwater Sportsman's Association Ocean City Offshore and Mini Summer Flounder Tournament last Saturday.

Best dolphin was claimed by Robert Baer's 19.42-pound catch. The three best flounder were caught by Douglas Hindes of Columbia.

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