The problem with dove hunting

The problem with dove hunting

Posted by Jim Mize on December 6, 2015

The problem with dove hunting is that it’s done in front of witnesses.

Every field has its good shooters and its bad, its cut-ups and comedians.  On a fair day, however, you come home with more than doves; you come home with stories.

For instance, whenever my mind turns to dove hunting, I think about Doc and the dove he lost to a hawk.  Doc was the elder statesman in this field and had hunted with this group so long that everyone knew which spot was Doc’s.  He hunted by a telephone pole in the field.  We razzed him any time his shot was close to the wire on birds setting wings to land.  

On one hunt, Doc had made a nice shot on a dove traveling with a good head of steam.  Its trajectory brought it to ground halfway between us, and being a decent retriever myself, I started out of my blind to meet Doc with the dove.

As we walked toward each other, a hawk swooped in, picked up the dove, and winged it toward me.  Doc saw it at the same time I did and started to yell.

“Shoot that hawk . . . he’s got my bird!”

I’ve never been a hawk shooter, even though we’ve competed for quail over the years and they seemed to be winning.  So taking a shot at a hawk wasn’t an option.  But I did consider firing in the air to see if I could scare the hawk enough to drop the dove.

But then I stopped with my gun halfway raised, hesitating for two good reasons.  First, everyone in the field would think I wanted to shoot the hawk and missed.  Second, the story of a thievin’ hawk was worth more than one bird.

So I walked on down to Doc as the hawk made it back to the tree line.

“Why didn’t you shoot that hawk?” Doc asked, knowing full well I wouldn’t.

“Doc, it’s simple.  I would far rather kid you about letting hawks steal your birds than having to help you clean one more dove.”

And Doc’s grin went ear to ear and I heard some mumbling as he walked off about me being a rascal.

Invariably, someone in a dove field has a bad day shooting.  We’ve all been there and dread going back.  Excuses flow like sweet tea at a barbecue joint and rarely stop the harassment that follows.  So poor shooting is no rarity except when it falls on someone who shoots well and you are there to watch.

This happened to one of our crew on a hunt during the late dove season.  A handful of us that have known each other so long we originally talked on rotary phones had an invitation to shoot a field managed for doves.  They may have been migrating birds or just desperate for a good feed, but the birds flew.

The action was fast and as I looked around the field, everyone was shooting.  A lot.  Birds fell by every blind but one.  A buddy who shall remain nameless simply missed everything that flew.

As the afternoon waned, one after another rose, gathered empty shells and birds, and meandered toward the trucks with their limits.  Except for Nameless.

As I recall, Nameless had four or five doves and was quickly depleting his stock of shells.  Empties lay at his feet and rattled as he twisted to shoot at another passing bird that kept on traveling.

A couple of us wandered over to provide tips, spot birds, and carry much needed boxes of shells.  Nameless kept on blasting and the law of averages occasionally made one fall.  It’s like the doves were flying through flak.  We played retriever so Nameless could continue to shoot.

An hour or so after the rest of us quit, Nameless was one bird short of a limit.  I can’t guess how many shells he had fired, but Remington probably sent him a Christmas card that year.  Knowing that only one bird was needed to end his humiliation, Nameless focused, laid out a flak field, and the final bird flew through it.

As any embarrassing experience deserves, our friend has been reminded of this shooting lapse on every subsequent hunt, dinner, or special occasion since.

Dove hunting, it seems, has its good and bad parts.  The bad part is that it’s always done with witnesses; the good part is that sometimes the stories are repeated by friends who let you remain Nameless.

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Jim Mize

Jim Mize has written humor and nostalgia for magazines including Gray's Sporting Journal, Fly Fisherman Magazine, Field & Stream, and a number of conservation magazines, picking up over fifty Excellence In Craft awards along the way. His most recent book, a collection of humor for fly fisherman entitled A Creek Trickles Through It, was awarded best outdoor book in 2014 by the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association. More on Jim and his writing activities can be found at

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