Bird hunters find a field of dreams

OUTDOORS

September 11, 1994|By LONNY WEAVER

The mourning dove season is off to a frantic beginning throughout Carroll County. Large numbers of birds combined with ideal weather could make this dove season one that we will tuck away in our memories for decades.

Last Saturday Wayne Albaugh and I teamed for an early afternoon hunt over a chopped cornfield near Middleburg. Albaugh had hunted this same spot for only about an hour on opening day and "couldn't believe the numbers of doves that piled into it. You and I have enjoyed some great hunts over the years, but I've never experienced anything like that."

By the time we set up for some serious shooting, it was around 2 p.m. and doves were beginning to fly into the field from all directions in groups of four to eight. By the time we left with our daily dozen-bag limits, the birds were swarming into the harvested field in groups of 20, 30 and 40.

I think that the key to the large numbers of birds was the field's location. Located off a secluded gravel country road cutting through rich Carroll farmlands, the 100-acre field was framed on the sides and back by wood lots and a tree line, respectively. Nearby was a large farm pond.

In other words, it had everything a dove needs for total happiness -- feed in the form of corn left from harvesting operations, gravel to aid in digestion, water and nesting areas -- all in an area covering less than a mile.

And of equal importance, Albaugh and I were the only hunters with permission to set up shop, so except for Albaugh's opening-day shoot, the place had not been gunned.

We picked shooting stands at opposite ends of a waterway. This is a natural drainage area common to all crop fields and is never plowed over.

I picked the high end with a hedgerow to my back that allowed me a good view of all approach angles except from my back. Albaugh simply set his shooting stool in the middle of the waist-high weeds and had no blind spots. About 150 yards separated us.

Albaugh was shooting 1 1/8 -ounce #8 shot from the modified choked barrel of his 12-gauge Remington 11/87 autoloader. I carried my favorite dove gun -- a 12-gauge Winchester side-by-side choked Skeet 1 & 2 and stoked with 1-ounce trap loads of the same sized shot.

I hadn't shot in awhile and the evidence laying at my feet featured five empty hulls and no doves before a snap shot at a vTC right-quartering-away bird broke the string of misses. Two in-comers and a couple of crossers made me respectable.

Albaugh, in the meantime, was setting a standard that I was hard-pressed to keep up with.

As Albaugh nailed two high crossing birds, I tracked a flock of six approaching downwind from my left. When they were within 40 yards, I swung the Winchester a good five feet ahead of the lead dove and brought down the third one in line. By now a steady, strong wind was blowing in from left to right and any dove that rode it got at least 10 feet of forward allowance and I still pulled tail feathers at an appalling rate.

It took me seven shots to bag the three birds remaining in my limit, but only about five minutes. Albaugh put his 12th in his

cooler after two misses. By then the numbers of doves moving into this field was mind-boggling. Very reluctantly we closed down the shoot.

Bob May, gunning in the area of Sykesville, reported a similar hunt last weekend, and Bill Walters got into the same kind of action near Hampstead.

Cornfields being chopped into silage are the places to gun for these challenging game birds.

Apply for deer permits now

If you want to hunt for deer in Carroll County's Morgan Run Natural Environment Area or the Patapsco Valley State Park, get your application in now.

Bowhunting for antlerless deer only will be permitted Wednesdays through Saturdays only Nov. 2-25 at Morgan Run. Muzzleloaders will be allowed in the same area to hunt antlerless deer Dec. 5-10 and Dec. 17-24. Ten hunters daily is the limit.

Bowhunting will be allowed at Patapsco from Oct. 17 to Jan. 31 only at the Fenwick/Cauthorn, Henryton and Raincliffe areas. Sixteen hunters a day will be the limit.

Permits will be issued via lottery drawing. For information call (410) 461-5005.

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