Monday marks the opening day for dove season, and at noon many will take to the fields in search of their quarry.
Fast-flying, abundant and delicious are the reasons why hunters across the country pursue doves with such popularity. Small family groups can be found throughout our area, although agricultural practices can concentrate birds early in the year.
Food, water and grit are all essential for doves, and hunters should take all factors into consideration when picking a spot.
When hunting a new area, setting up where much of the air can be scanned can quickly allow the flyways to be established. Once it is determined where the birds are flying, moving positions should result in some shot opportunities almost immediately.
In the early season the resident dove can quickly be pushed out of an area in addition to how many the hunters harvest. Oftentimes it is not until the latter part of the early season before larger congregations of birds appear.
Recently harvested grain fields are a magnet for birds, but in this area most agriculture is in the form of corn, soybeans or vegetables. Oats usually are harvested too early around here to be low enough for doves to feed in the stubble, and wheat and sunflowers are rare.
Weed seeds often fill many of the doves harvested in the early season, although, if available, cut corn is always a draw. I have taken birds a mile away from the nearest cornfield that were eating nothing but corn. This is important to understand that it is not necessary to hunt over the food source to enjoy success.
Identifying doves can take time for new hunters, and it is always best to have someone experienced help call the shot. Taking kids along is easily done with favorable weather and almost constant action.
Recovering downed birds is an educational experience in itself and allows the youth to participate in the hunt.
Finding dove loads could be difficult at times, and the cost for ammo gives even more incentive to shoot straight.
• The other action for Monday will be the resident goose season, although far fewer of the shots heard will be directed toward them.
Hunting geese can involve anything from pass-shooting as the birds leave the roost to setting up decoys in a field where geese are known to feed.
For the same reasons that early dove hunting can be a low-numbers venture, so too can the resident goose season. With geese everywhere, having ample food sources there is no real incentive to move much unless hunting pressure pushes them out of their current home.
Liberal bag limits in the early season have put a dent in the resident population, and often the hunting gets better once the migration begins. I have harvested early-season geese in a number of fashions and once even killed a couple in a cabbage field.
Finding a flock is ultimately the biggest factor to success. After that it is just a matter of deciding where to hunt them. Roost sites over water are the easiest part of the equation, with food sources being tougher to locate because often they are hidden from the road.
Often pass-shooting geese some distance from the water can allow for the easiest way to hunt the birds. Pass-shooting the morning flight is often over fairly quickly and can be squeezed in before work if needed.
• Just as quickly as these opening days have sneaked up on sportsmen, archery will quickly be upon us. Hanging stands, practicing with the bow, checking trail cameras and glassing in the evenings along with spotlighting are activities that are under way or will be soon.