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Scott Rall: Get ready for a new Labor Day tradition

Scott Rall

Daily Globe outdoors columnist 

There are signs that summer is getting close to the end of its reign. The sweet clover is turning brown and my wildflowers are starting to prepare to distribute their seeds. I have seen more pheasants than I thought I would after the 21 inches of rain in the month of June.

I made plans to go on a little motorcycle trip over Labor Day weekend and then came to the realization that the dove hunting season opens on Monday Sept. 1. This is Labor Day Monday. I called the travelers in my group and informed them that I would be coming home a day early in order to participate in the opening day of dove season.

Dove season runs for about two months, but in Nobles County it rarely lasts more than about three weeks. A few hard frosts and the doves head for warmer locales and our hunting opportunity comes quickly to an end. Minnesota is not a hotbed for dove hunters. Hunter numbers have remained stable from the first seasons, which started about about seven years ago.

I enjoy dove hunting for a variety of reasons. The first is that it is the first season to open in the fall.

I have been training my dogs all summer to see them work in the fall, and dove hunting is a great way to work a dog. There are often many shots. This means many opportunities to have the dog sit steady at your side until sent. Many dogs will blast off when the gun goes off. Steady is a learned skill and dove hunting gives you multiple opportunities to fine-tune this dog skill.

The weather is also warm, so it is easy to take a young hunter along without having to dress like you’re hunting in the Arctic. In many hunting situations the hunter needs to be totally quiet. If you make a wrong move or squeak in the chair, the game is spooked and gone in seconds. With dove hunting there is a much wider window of tolerable noise and movement, and this makes it much easier for the new hunter.

When I think about new hunters it reminds me of the five states of hunting. These stages are really how hunters determine if their day afield was a success or not.

The first stage of a hunter is the “number of shots taken” stage. A stage one hunter might say something like this: “I shot 60 times but I did not get any. Boy, was that fun.” Shots taken is the fun part of the day. A stage two hunter is the how-many-did-I-kill hunter. They are primarily interested in whether or not they got a limit of whatever they were after. Less than a limit was a failure to a stage two hunter.

The stage three hunter is a method hunter. They want to hunt only using a certain method. Like a duck hunter that only wants to shoot waterfowl in a cornfield over decoys. There might be hundreds of ducks on a slough nearby, but a method hunter won’t pursue them because it is not the method of hunting they want to use.

The stage four hunter is a trophy hunter. They don’t care if they bag any game but if they do it will be a trophy. A trophy hunter is usually a nomadic sort, driving all over the county to shoot a huge deer or unusual kinds of wild game.

Then there is the stage five hunter. They don’t care at all about any of the other four methods. They only care that they are in the outdoors. Shooting is not important, bagging game is not important, it matters not if it is big or small. They are looking for a quality outing and everything else is secondary.

Most young hunters are stage one hunters and shooting many times even if they don’t bag many makes for a great day. Dove hunting creates excitement in young hunters because there is usually lots of action. Another reason to appreciate dove hunting is that it does not take lots of money to participate. All you need is a shotgun, some shells and a short trip to one of the public hunting areas and you are in the act of dove hunting.

You can spend a little money on decoys and other accessories and they do increase success, but they are not mandatory to enjoy a day afield. If you have never tried hunting, dove hunting is a great place to get your feet wet for the first time. If you hunt other game but have never hunted doves, you should give it a try. It is great exercise and helps the dog get in shape, too, for the more rigorous seasons that will certainly follow. The rules regarding baiting for doves are very different than for other species. Read the rules carefully and be an ethical hunter.

You do need to take care if you are using a dog because of the warm temperatures, which are great for the kids, but are certainly hard on the dog. A dog can overheat in only a few minutes, so keep a close eye on the dog and rest and water it when necessary.

I wanted to thank everyone for their support and good wishes this past week with the announcement of yours truly as a finalist for the Field and Stream Hero of Conservation Award. Making it into the top six from 30 members from all over the United States is already more than I could have ever imagined. They sent a pair of photographers and a film crew from Pennsylvania to Worthington for a few days a while back, and two videos will soon be on available to view on the Field and Stream website about the local habitat work that is taking place in your neighborhood.

It really does not matter if you are a dove hunter, a pheasant hunter, a deer hunter or a duck hunter. What matters is that wildlife needs habitat and people to care about its protection. I will be sitting in a chair on Labor Day Monday looking to start my season off with a few doves for the grill. Each person that joins me will have purchased a license of which those dollars will be used to manage our natural resources for the benefit of all.

Kids under a certain age do not need to purchase a license. They do need a firearms safety certificate at age 13 to hunt doves. Check the regulation book for all the necessary details. Make a plan today to spend some time this upcoming Labor Day