The only outdoor-related subject matter that gets me as much response as my columns on wolves are the ones related to dove hunting. That season opens in Minnesota on September 1. Morning doves are the most plentiful game bird in North America and their populations are considered a species of least concern. The average life expectancy of a dove is under one year.
Yet with all of the facts that show hunting doves has no measurable effect on dove populations, there are always going to be folks who think all hunting should be outlawed. This is why so many states have amended their constitutions to protect hunting and fishing as a legal activity.
My dad never really hunted very much, and I certainly did not develop my outdoor passions as a result of countless hours in the field with my dad. Making a living back then was the only concern, and for the majority of my youth my parents spent their time doing just that.
One dove hunting memory that I do remember well is one from when I was about 6 years old, and it took place in the great state of South Dakota. Times have changed a lot since then, but the story I am about to share was quite common more than 50 years ago.
There was no time to go scouting to look for a dove field to hunt in. Our scouting was hunting. My mom would drive a 50’s-something Chevy station wagon down gravel roads at about 10 miles per hour. My dad would sit on the front fender with his shotgun in hand. He had a friend whose name was Roger Spirie (pronounced spie-ree). I am sure I spelled it wrong.
As we drove down the gravel roads, we looked for doves sitting on the power lines overhead. When we got close, mom slowed the car down and when the doves jumped off the line to fly off, mom would come to a stop and dad would slide off the front fender and take aim.
If he was successful, I would bail out of the back seat and run to retrieve the dove.
If you have ever hunted doves before, you would know they are a pretty hard target to hit. The limit was 15 birds per person per day. This is still the limit today. Most hunters don’t shoot a limit each hunting effort. Dad often harvested 15 doves with 25 shots.
Dad and Roger took turns depending on what side of the gravel road the bird was. We would go home and clean the doves and my mom would bake them in sour crème sauce and, boy, were they good.
I remember a time when we opened up the back of the station wagon and one of the doves was not completely dead. It fluttered out the back and was making a getaway across the yard. Both me and my brother Chyne, looking like Sylvester Stallone in the movie Rocky where he chased the full-size chicken around in an alley in order to train for quickness in the boxing ring, took to the chase.
We did catch it and it went in the baking dish with all of the others. Why is it that you remember some things so vividly and I can’t remember what I had for lunch two days ago?
It has always been the same for me. The clearest memories I have, have been centered around enjoying the outdoors. The habitat, the weather, the sunsets, the family and friends that were there to share the experience. What the game tasted like and many of my very favorite memories are those of sitting on the tailgate of my truck with a loved one watching the sun set with a glass of wine or a cold beer in hand.
The dove opener is a special opportunity to make some of these same memories with your child or the young kid in the neighborhood.
The reason the dove opener makes for a better than average opportunity to make these memories is because the weather is almost always warm. A young kid can get some shooting without having to get up at the crack of dawn and sit still for 4-5 hours at a time.
Doves are pretty forgiving when it comes to a little noise or moderate movement. These are things young kids struggle to avoid.
If you spend time outdoors continue to do so. If you don’t, please give this easy, relaxing hunting opportunity a try and take a young person with you.
You can’t sit on the fender of a car anymore, but your outdoor memory will be just as sweet.