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Hunting Season Soon Underway

It’s practically the middle of summer, how can you be thinking about hunting already? Well, believe it or not, dove-hunting season opens on Sept. 1 and for me that usually marks the beginning of a new hunting season. The dove season is split into three separate seasons with Sept. 1 through Oct. 10 being the first season followed by the second season opening Oct. 17 through Nov. 28. The final dove hunt season is from Dec. 26 through Jan. 1. Shooting hours are more limited during the early season; from Sept. 1 to Sept. 25 you may hunt from noon until sunset but from Sept. 26 on you may hunt doves from one-half hour before sunrise to sunset. The limit is 15 doves per day.

I’ll be honest; it’s been a while since I have been able to limit out on doves on the first day of the season. Not too many years back my dove hunting buddies and I would go through the better part of a box of shells each and often take home a limit of doves, and that might be in only a few hours of hunting. I’m not saying there are less doves than there used to be but they certainly have changed their locations and I have yet to find a new “hot spot.” Nonetheless, I still enjoy the early dove hunts; the weather is often very pleasant and when the birds are cooperating it can provide some fast and challenging shooting opportunities.

Besides being some good practice and preparation for the other hunting seasons yet to come, dove hunting is a great agenda for getting a new hunter into the activity of hunting. Weather isn’t a problem, and there are often a good number of moving targets, which provides a mentor the opportunity to assist new hunters on how to lead a bird and how to judge distances.

I prefer to use a 12 gage with seven and one-half or eight shot; I want as much shot out there as possible since doves can be very erratic in flight and I want all the help I can get. As the season progresses, you may also see a need for longer shots since doves have been shot at already and may be more wary-a 12 gauge better fits the bill.

Doves are field birds; they eat seeds, grass seeds, millet, sunflower, corn and a lot of other seeds, so you want to hunt in or near fields. It’s important that you dress in camouflage and remain as concealed as possible, so hunting in a fencerow with some brush or trees is a good location as long as you have relatively clear shooting.

Something that will probably improve dove hunting, at least in some areas, is the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s recent approval of managed dove fields. What that means is that landowners and the commission can plant fields with crops intended for doves. The fields can be cut periodically leaving grain in the field to attract doves. While larger grain fields will likely attract more doves, even an acre or two can be beneficial not to mention it benefits other wildlife and birds as well.

Doves offer some excellent table fare so if the hunt alone isn’t enough to attract your attention try adding a great meal to the hunt at the end of the day. Here’s a recipe I want to try: 8-10 dove breasts, add a can of cream of mushroom soup and 1 cup of commercial sour cream. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour.

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