Arizona dove season started on September 1. This year, I took a new dove hunter out on on opening day. My policy is to introduce new hunters to hunting as often as I can.
Jesse had fired a few shots with a .22 rifle before, but had never fired a shotgun at a moving target. He had to learn nearly everything from scratch. That’s a challenge with the fast-moving birds.
Jesse understood basic gun safety, but I reinforced the four safety rules. I told him while actually hunting for dove, to have his finger on the safety of the old Remington 20 gauge 870 he is holding. It may appear that his finger is on the trigger in these photos, but it’s not. It is on the safety, just behind the trigger on the 870 shotgun.
Dove hunting is a good introduction for new hunters. There are a lot of targets. Doves aren’t very sophisticated birds. Minor mistakes can be made, and a novice can still have a successful hunt. Dove hunting is an authentic hunting experience.
Hunting is a primordial activity that seems hardwired into our brain patterns. You can try to explain it to non-hunters, but it needs to be experienced to be understood.
Explaining hunting to someone who has never hunted is like trying to explain hot showers to a person who’s never had running water. They may understand the mechanics, but not the experience. The difference between merely walking through a wilderness area, and hunting in that same area is profound. In one experience, you’re merely observing nature. In the other, you’re an active participant in the drama.
This year, there were plenty of doves. Jesse did well. He shot 10 birds the first day, the majority of which where white wing doves. It took him a while to learn to swing the shotgun, to follow through, and to get “on” a moving target quickly. He fired a lot of shots to harvest those 10 doves, but there were a lot of doves to shoot at.
He didn’t waste shells shooting at doves that were out of range. Determining range is an important skill for wing shooting. Jesse harvested birds with both the 870 and a Browning Twelvette Double-Auto. He favored the old beat-up 870.
I insisted we collect each downed dove before another shot was fired.Learning to mentally mark the location of downed birds was another skill I worked at transmitting to Jesse.
Unless you have a good dog or another person who’s willing to work specifically at retrieving the birds, they’re easy to lose. Their coloration blends in well with the desert brush so it’s best to collect them quickly while you have an idea where they fell.
After the day’s hunting, I taught Jesse how to clean the doves. He was fascinated by the internal mechanics of the dove’s organs. I pointed out the crop, the heart, the lungs, and the gizzard.
These things were common knowledge two generations ago, when nearly everyone participated in butchering chickens for a family meal. Today they’re esoteric for a young person.
On the second day of the hunt, Jesse and I only had about two hours. I had a prior commitment to be part of the security team for the Vertical Church in Yuma.
But Jesse’s shooting had improved. He downed five doves, even though the shooting is alway slower on the second day. Many doves have already been harvested, and a lot of the survivors had learned to be cautious.
Dove hunting is an important part of the Yuma economy. On a per pound basis, dove meat is very expensive. People travel hundreds of miles to participate in Yuma dove hunting each year.
As an older hunter, I get great satisfaction in mentoring young hunters. I benefited greatly from the mentoring of my father. I was able to step outside my door and start hunting while growing up in northern Wisconsin. Most of today’s young people do not have that advantage.
If you have the opportunity, take a young person hunting. The experience will broaden their horizons far beyond another video game.
©2018 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.