Double Dove Opener Is Twice the Fun
Over the next four hours, I saw few doves. I would guess that fewer than 20 shots were fired between noon and 4 p.m. When birds finally began moving in significant numbers, I discovered that my spot had two disadvantages. Birds flying over the field were too low to shoot safely, because other hunters were standing on the opposite side of the field. Doves shot outside the field would have fallen into a jungle of weeds and shrubs. I had reluctantly left my golden retriever at home on account of the heat, so I would have spent less time shooting birds than finding them if I took those shots.
It occurred to me that if I was passing up shots at low-flying birds, the guys on the other side of the field must be, too. So I hiked over there and, after explaining why I was horning in on their territory, I took a position that left 40 or 50 yards between me and the shooters on either side.
By then, it was 4:30, and the evening flight began.
In the next hour I bagged half a dozen doves with only eight shotgun shells. That’s about as good as it gets for me, so naturally I was feeling pretty smug. Had I been smart, I would have quit then. Instead, I spent the next hour--and 14 shells--obtaining my seventh dove.
The daily limit is 15 doves, and I still had more than an hour of legal shooting time. But I already had provided ample proof that pride goes before a fall. Using the long drive home as an excuse, I slunk from the field with and went to check in my birds.
The Conservation Department, has been studying doves intensively at Reed CA since 1999. One of the things Schulz and his helpers do is collect wings from doves taken by hunters. In November, he collects wings from several CAs around the state hosts a “wing bee” for biologists from several states. They sort through thousands of wings to determine the age of harvested birds. This information, along with hunter reports of banded doves, provides valuable insights about dove population dynamics and how hunting affects dove numbers.
I was pleasantly surprised when one of the workers clipping wings from my birds told me I had shot a banded dove. Like Aaron Garringer, I had been too busy hunting to look closely at my doves’ legs and so had missed the band. I called the toll-free number on the band and reported its number. In return for data my report provided, I will get an e-mail with a printable certificate telling when and where my bird was banded and killed.
Here is some interesting stuff that Schulz has learned from band returns:
- More than 80 percent of band recoveries occur during the first hunting season after banding.
- Ninety-nine percent of recoveries occur by the end of the fourth hunting season after banding.
- One bird out of 2,311 survived seven hunting seasons.
- Doves banded in Missouri were recovered as far away as Utah, Idaho, Florida and southern Mexico.
- Seven percent of band returns in Missouri came from doves banded in other states.
- Between 2003 and 2010, hunters harvested a little more than 100 banded doves per year at Reed CA. This was 35 percent of all recoveries of doves banded in Missouri.
Next year I will try this strategy again, hoping for better luck in the morning and maybe a little cooler weather. It’s a long drive to the Reed area, but the prospect of winning the banded-bird lottery is kind of cool.