This year’s opening day is scheduled to happen on Saturday, September 4 at 12:00 Noon. If hunters have not yet begun to make preparations for the hunt, it’s time to get outdoors and start scouting for productive dove fields an making sure that all the red tape and equipment is ready for the event. Time is short!
One of the first things you should think about is a hunting license. If this early season dove hunt goes as usual there will be a lot of first-time hunters taking to the field and, if they’ve never had a license before haven’t taken the hunter safety course as required by law, they may find that the license salesperson won’t sell them a license. If the prospective license buyer has previously owned a hunting license then they’re OK to go.
If one should find himself in the situation of not having had the hunter safety course or a previous hinting license, then there is sometimes some last minute, hunter safety courses around for the latecomers. Check with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission at their website or by phone at 919-707-0201. If you’re lucky you may find one of these last-minute courses being offered within driving distance from your home.
It’s also good to make sure every hunter carries his HIP (Hunter Information Program) certificate with them on the hunt. These cards are free but you have to ask for them. They are required by federal law so that the government can keep track of what hunters are killing how many and what kind of game animals.
Since being properly licensed is one thing that’s required by law before hunting and waiting until the last minute to buy that license can present problems, it’s a good idea to start this procedure immediately.
Finding a “hot” field in which to hunt also requires some effort. Without already knowing about a favorite field some driving around the backcountry roads and watching for dove activity is one way to start. Once you’ve established that a lot of dove are flying into a certain field you need to gain permission to hunt there. Since dove hunting is often a group activity with numbers of hunters keeping the dove stirred-up you may find it relatively easy to get permission there if you politely ask the landowner.
Once permission is gained, take some time before opening day to sit back and observe what flight patterns the birds are using as they fly into and out of the field. It’s near one of these flight paths that your opening day’s stand should be established.
If you don’t have time to scout a dove field on your own there are often farmers who have a “pay to hunt” dove field during the first few days of dove season. These commercial hunts often have food and refreshments to offer as well and for the busy hunter these are a good bet for a good dove shoot. A quick check of the field to see if there’s any extra grain scattered about may save a hunter from getting into a law violation for hunting over a baited field though. Commercial dove hunts are ordinarily very conscious of the law and do not “sweeten” the field.
Your equipment should be thoroughly checked out in advance of the hunt. Be sure that your shotgun is properly “plugged” so that it can only hold three shells (one shell in the chamber and no more than two in the magazine). If your shotgun’s been sitting in a closet since last hunting season, take it out and carefully clean if and check on the plug in the magazine.
One of the very best pre-season checks that can be carried out before the actual hunt is to visit a nearby shooting range and actually shoot the shotgun.
There are numerous shooting sports that benefit the shotgunner but I recommend the sport of sporting clays. This shotgun game simulates actual field conditions and can re-establish shooting skills that haven’t been used since the last hunting season.
On Friday and Saturday, August 27 and 28 the “Log A Load For Kids,” Colony Tire Miracle Shoot is taking place at the Hunter’s Pointe Sporting Clays just to the north of Washington, N.C. off Highway 17. All proceeds from this event will go to the University Health Care Children’s Hospital and the Children’s Miracle Network. This event has been around for a number of years and has attracted a large number of competitors in the past. The timing of the shoot just happens to be a few days prior to the opening day of this year’s dove season and is just the ticket to sharpen your shooting skills on clay targets.
Dove hunters who hunt with retrieving dogs need to train their dogs prior to the actual hunt. If everything goes as usual and some of the dogs break on the shot, dove fields can become a madhouse of frantically running dogs and screaming hunters. The sound of the shot and the sight of a bird falling from the sky is more than even a well-trained dog can stand and they go for the retrieve without the hunter’s having given the command. Carry a check cord along in case the excitement of the hunt is more than your dog can stand.
Hunters and their dogs should be well aware of the heat and humidity and take along plenty of water. We humans can sweat to cool ourselves but dogs can’t sweat. I’ve seen hunters carrying dogs out of a dove field in their arms because the dogs were passing-out from heat exhaustion and/or dehydration. As one very well known U.S. Army general recently said after nearly passing out when speaking to a huge audience, “I should have remembered what I was taught in my training class and thought of hydration, hydration, re-hydration.”
Gun safety should of course be foremost in every hunter’s mind and when hunting under what can be a crowded dove field safety is particularly important.
Do not shoot at low flying dove! It’s normal for small shot to rain down of hunters. If the shot’s velocity is spent and the shot are falling they’re harmless but shot fired on the level (or near level) have retained their velocity and can be dangerous to other hunters or their dogs.
Remember the first rule of gun safety and never point your gun at something that you do not intend to shoot. Always carry your gun unloaded to your shooting position and carefully load it at that point. Keep the safety on and your finger off the trigger until immediately before you shoot.
Be very wary of the baited field when hunting dove. Nearly every opening day some hunters try and add a little “sweetening” to the field in order to bring in dove. Normal agricultural practices are acceptable but cracked grain or other forms of bait are out of line with normal agricultural practices game wardens often make a judgment-call on the matter of what is and isn’t a baited field so smart hunters should take a quick walk over the field where they plan to hunt and if you’re in doubt about its being baited, don’t hunt there. The penalties for hunting over a baited field are severe.
Never partake of any alcoholic beverages before or during a hunt. Save that for after the hunt and then keep in mind that you may be driving a car on your way home. If hunters are tired, hot and thirsty they are very vulnerable to even small amounts of alcohol. Having a good designated driver is a good idea for the trip home after the opening day’s hunt.
For the homeowner who might have a house in close proximity to a field where a good dove hunt is going on. a word of advice is needed. Don’t be alarmed at what may sound like a war going on close to your house. It’s not even unusual for a few spent shot pellets to rain on your house and that can really scare people that aren’t expecting it. On a tin roof spent shot can sound alarming. Those are spent shot and will not hurt you.
Don’t forget that the season opens at twelve o’clock noon and the daily bag limit is 15 dove per hunter. The possession limit is not 30 birds on opening day.
Have a good and safe hunt.