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by Jim Casada | Sep 8, 2020 | BIRD HUNTING, HUNTING
Dove Hunting and the Making of a Sportsman


Arguably the finest of all the myriad bonuses associated with a dove shoot is taking along a youngster not yet old enough to carry a gun.
A late friend of mine, Roy Turner, liked to refer to the opening day of dove season as “Christmas in September.” That description aptly captures the joy of bidding summer adieu, greeting the onset of another fall and winter afield for the hunter and the overall festive atmosphere linked to a fine shoot. A properly managed dove hunt featuring birds aplenty and either commencing or wrapping up with the sort of dinner on the grounds matched only by a family reunion or old-time brush arbor revival is an exercise in pure delight. Come to think of it, like country revivals, a popcorn popper of a hunt features an atmosphere somewhat resembling religious fervor.

Fine food and fellowship have always been integral parts of properly organized dove hunts, and veterans of such affairs enjoy what might be described as the extras—renewing acquaintances with longtime sporting buddies, gentle joshing when a nearby shooter whom you’ve known for decades misses an easy shot, words of praise when the same fellow executes a nifty left-and-right double, savoring the heady aroma of burnt gunpowder wafting across the sere fields of September, watching a new canine companion get its first taste of duty or observing a savvy veteran work wizardry while seeking just a scintilla of bird-locating scent, quietly reveling in a son killing his first bird or accounting for his first full limit. But arguably the finest of all the myriad bonuses associated with a dove shoot is taking along a youngster not yet old enough to carry a gun.

father son dove hunt with chocolate lab dog

On the face of it this might seem almost punishment as opposed to something providing delight, but such is decidedly not the case for either the young boy or girl and certainly not for their adult companion. Dove hunts are ideally suited to molding a sportsman in the making while planting the sort of seed which can sprout and produce joy over the course of an entire lifetime.


One key consideration with the quite young is that they crave action. Simply sitting still and keeping quiet, the type of behavior required in a deer stand and even more so when turkey hunting, doesn’t fit the bill for an exuberant kid. Dove hunting does. Even if the birds aren’t flying there are all sorts of lessons to be learned and activities to be pursued while filling time until grey-winged speedsters fill the skies. That might involve observing butterflies, whether migrating monarchs or the skippers which invariably seem to be around in September, while enjoying a bit of a lesson in natural history. Or efforts at identifying different types of birds (and they are sure to be present even if doves aren’t for a portion of the hunt) and noting characteristics of their flight patterns can have appeal. So do snacks, sips of cold water or a soft drink, chasing grasshoppers, throwing rocks, listening to distant crows or the scream of a hawk or indeed pretty much anything involving mental and physical exercise, which even a modestly creative mentor can bring to the forefront.
hunters lunch food

Beyond that, it is quite easy to give one’s youthful understudy a meaningful role in the actual hunting experience. They can serve as “spotters.” Frequently youthful eyes, especially once they become able to distinguish the distinctive flight patterns of doves, will see birds before you do. Likewise, they will take both delight and pride in serving as a helpmate in marking downed birds and as human retrievers. Similarly, assigning your sidekick the duty of picking up spent shells, explaining the importance of leaving no detritus in the aftermath of a hunt, will provide a sense of purpose and likely be considered a pleasure. All the while there are openings where the insightful teacher can impart of bit of wisdom on matters such as gun safety, field courtesy, judging distance, how to determine lead or swing on birds, the “never do it” nature of shooting at low birds, and the like. Finally, at hunt’s end be sure to include your companion in dressing the birds, as well as the feast to come when those birds are the featured menu item.

As for telling of post-hunt tales, the food which often either precedes or follow a shoot, and the overall aura of good will, rest assured there will be no need to worry on those matters. Greedy-gut youngsters will do ample justice to hunt fare, join merrily in after-the-hunt festivities and ask endless questions, which the wise teacher will answer with patience and every effort to provide insight. There’s no need for any part of the experience to be boring. After all, your companion can talk at will, move about when restless (although some lessons about keeping still when birds are approaching will be in order, they should not be so stringent as to create frustration or boredom) and end the day with a genuine feeling they have been part of something special. It’s a grand learning experience, and rest assured the grizzled old veteran toting the gun and doing the teaching will benefit at least as much as his companion of tender years.
 
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Well spoken. For 8 years I have fixed a dove field in front of our house for a select few family members and friends. We always meet at my house at 12 noon for a big meal before drawing "stands" and going into the field. One friend has a son named Emmett. For years he's been bird pick up boy, hull collector and spotter for his Dad. Although only 8 years old this year his Dad started him shooting a 20 ga. over the summer. Saturday Emmett bagged his first dove. There was whooping and hollering from his Dad's stand. We we all so proud and congratulated him accordingly. Saturday Emmett walked a little taller and was very happy.
 

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AWESOME story! Good for Emmett! A memory he will never forget.............
 

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When I was an advisor in Viet Nam, my uniform, flak jacket, helmet, M-16, and bandoliers of ammo were hanging on pegs on the wall about four feet away from my bed. I could be up, dressed, armed, and out the door by the time I got my eyes open.

When I got home, we lived in a rented house next to farm fields. My bed was about two feet from the wall.

One Saturday morning at sunrise I woke to gunfire. I jumped out of bed, hit the wall, and flopped back on the bed, waking my wife. Turned out it was opening day of dove season.
 
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