Looking for a shot at some doves? Set your sights on chopped fields

OUTDOORS

September 12, 1993|By LONNY WEAVER

I missed the first dove I attempted to put in my game bag in 1993. I haven't a clue where that 1 ounce of No. 8s went, but my second shot missed behind, as did the third.

The fourth dove escaped when I missed high. After missing low with my fifth attempt at putting the year's first dove in the bag, you could have picked up a very nice 20-gauge pump gun at a nearly giveaway price.

Success finally came when the sixth dove flew into my end of the field. This was a fairly uncomplicated right-to-left crossing shot, and all I had to do was get the gun up, push the 26-inch barrel a couple of yards ahead of the bird, slap the trigger and follow through after the shot left the muzzle.

My gunning pal, Westminster's Wayne Albaugh, was doing considerably better over on his side of a chopped cornfield near Union Bridge. He and I have been gunning buddies for more than a decade, and doves are what brought us together.

Through a lot of hard work, he has turned himself into one of the finest shotgun handlers I've ever shared a field with. By the time I finally put my first dove on the ground, Albaugh had four birds in his bag and only six empty shells at his feet.

I had taken my first six shots from the edge of a wood lot bordering a 50-acre cut cornfield. After collecting my bird, though, I moved about 200 yards to my right front and took up a stand under a small tree along the edge of a fence.

The problem with my first position was that too many doves were coming from behind, high and fast. By the time I spotted them, my choice was a hail-Mary shot or nothing.

This second location was near an area that I had noticed was attracting a lot of birds. In fact, as I approached my new spot, about 100 doves flushed from the field and headed toward Albaugh. He shot twice and two more went against his daily limit.

My shooting improved at this spot, and I soon had four more birds out of seven shots. One of the differences was that I was shooting off my strengths. For example, if right-to-left crossing shots give you fits, as they do most right-handed shooters, relocate to a spot that favors other angles.

At this new stand, I could clearly see Albaugh and immediately knew one of the reasons for his success. If there is something a dove simply cannot pass up, it is a dead tree.

Albaugh was sitting squarely under one, yet he was well-concealed against a vine-choked fence row. Most of his shots were at lazy birds wanting to sit in that tree or slow-flying lookers thinking about setting down. My birds, on the other hand, were whistling by my spot like missiles.

We got to the field, which is part of a 1,000-acre farming operation about 3 p.m. The birds flew so well that we were done and on our way home two hours later.

Probably the major reason for this kind of action was that to our knowledge we were shooting the only chopped cornfield in the area. It drew doves like a magnet.

We accomplished this by doing our homework. We keep in contact with area farmers, don't abuse the privileges granted us or over-gun a spot. Through the years these people have learned to trust our responsibility, and the result is that we usually shoot prime locations from the beginning of the dove season to its conclusion.

Reports throughout Carroll County indicate a superb dove season is at hand. Right now, most of the birds are concentrating in the few fields being chopped.

If you cannot get permission to shoot such a spot, locate the birds' graveling, watering or nesting sites and try to set up shop along that set flyway.

For the most part doves will be found in wood lots until they begin to move into cut corn, weed or other grain fields around 3 p.m. They will feed, then gravel, water and roost.

Cooler weather will keep them moving longer, and a sudden cold front from the north will tend to push migrating doves into the area a day or so ahead of it. Right now, and through most of this early season, resident doves represent most of the shooting opportunities.

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