As many have learned, teaching a skill can be more enjoyable than exercising it. Last year I took Joe hunting, and he shot his first doves. In between seasons, I taught him to drive. This year I asked if he wanted to go hunting again, and he did, but he asked if he could bring a friend, Mason. Mason had already been dove hunting, he said. After a few questions, I agreed. Mason is 16.
The boys were up and ready at 05:30, just as I had asked. It was gratifying to see them appropriately dressed, with water and snacks, and shotgun shells. Joe’s father was giving Mason instruction on a Benelli Nova 12 gauge pump. Mason said he had used a side by side, and I had brought one, an Ugartechea 12 gauge.I said he could use it. We brought the Benelli along as another spare.
I carried a beat-up 20 gauge Remington 870 Wingmaster. Someone had removed nearly all the finish, so I picked it up at a local gun show for $100. I had grown up with a 20 gauge 870, and it suited me like an old friend. It was likely four times as old as the young hunters. I didn’t expect to shoot much, if at all, so it was really just another spare. I brought an old box of 20 gauge paper shell reloads with it, just in case.
The sun wasn’t yet up when we arrived at the urban pocket where I’ve hunted doves for 15 years. It’s legal, but few know of it. The suburbs of Yuma (yes, we have them) haven’t quite wiped it out, yet.
This was the second day of the season. The limit was 15 Mourning and White Wing doves with no limit on Rock Doves (pigeons), or collared doves, both being invasive species. On opening day I had limited, with a bonus of two pigeons and four collared dove.
The hunt started slowly, pass shooting as the doves flew from roosting in the citrus groves to the fields. I instructed the boys on safety and shooting technique. I learned that Mason’s experience consisted of three outings. On thehe first, he didn’t shoot. On the second, he only fired only a couple of shots. The third, less than a dozen. I considered him a beginner.
Both boys did well, but Mason had an exceptional day, one I think he will remember for a long time.
A bird came in. I told Mason to swing on it, get in front of it, and shoot. He did and with his first shot his first bird dropped like a rock.
We changed position to take advantage of the the doves returning from the fields and the action quickened.
Mason shot three shotguns that day and dropped doves with all of them. The Ugartechea started misfiring in the right barrel, so I handed him the Wingmaster and gave him some instruction. He had never shot a pump before, and he loved it, firing twenty-one shots with it. With only four 20 gauge shells left, we switched to the Benelli.
He jump-shot another dove with the Benelli as we walked back to where we had left Joe. Shortly after, the birds stopped coming in and we quit for the day. Mason totaled 14 Mourning doves for about 40 shots, showing real wing shooting talent. Joe bagged seven Mourning doves, also doing well. Joe was shooting a Browning Double Auto. The young hunters might have gotten more birds, but I kept them close for coaching.
I had the young men retrieve each dove as it was downed before they shot another. We didn’t lose any birds that we saw hit the ground. While I didn’t fire a shot, I hope to take both hunters out again. Joe has indicated an interest in bigger game. Maybe I can find a place in Texas that needs some wild hogs removed.
©2016 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.