Sports
A special dove hunt with old friends
By Luke Clayton
Sep 16, 2018
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During the past 56 years, give or take a year or two, I’ve hunted dove from the prairie of North Dakota to the brush country of Mexico. I’ve enjoyed some red-hot shoots and some hunts where just ‘being there’ was the reward. I’ve hunted with countless fine people and the memories made on these hunts are priceless to me.

Dove hunting is generally considered to be a ‘group’ endeavor with friends and family. But I enjoyed a solo hunt this past week at a friend’s place down the road from where I live that might just go down as the dove hunt of a lifetime; I killed a grand total of three birds! 

“WHAT? You killed only 3 doves and were there by yourself? After experiencing some of the great shoots you have enjoyed with all those fine people, how could rate this as a hunt of a lifetime?” you are probably thinking.  Read on and I will try to explain.

My buddy Kenneth Shepherd lives a little over a mile down a tree-shaded narrow asphalt lane from my home. His farm is about a thousand yards from a patch of woods that I have hunted for the past 15 years. We often text each other while hunting for deer and hogs. I’ve have received many text from Kenneth that read, “A big bunch of hogs are headed your way," or "I just let a young 10 pointer walk, he is on the move and might make it down your way.”  Kenneth and I became friends from the day we met and have enjoyed many good times in the outdoors together.

Last week Kenneth was brush-hogging one of his pastures and saw a good numbers of dove that had stopped by on their southerly migration. He texted me with an invite to come over for an afternoon shoot. Kenneth can best be described as a shooter. He is rock steady and can shoot tight little groups with everything from a compound bow to center fire rifle. He is also highly competitive. He was heading to Oklahoma City for an Action Cowboy shoot and left me with an invite to come enjoy the bounty of dove he had seen while mowing.

I loaded my little 20 gauge over/under shotgun, a box of shells, my old trusty flapping wing dove decoys, stool to set on and headed toward shady side of the barn that Kenneth said would be a great place to intercept the birds going from feed to the small pond situated about 100 yards to the east.

Luke's action dove decoy he used on a hunt this past week. photo by Luke Clayton

The weather was perfect. Mostly clear skies after a couple days of off and on rain. The pond was to my left a mound of dirt about 25 yards in front of me seemed the perfect spot to set my dove decoys. Because of the elevation afforded by the mound, dove could spot my decoys flapping their wings from a great distant.

Kenneth had left a patch of standing crouton (dove or goat weed, some folks call it) off to my right, on the west side of the barn. The seed heads of the crouton are still green but in a few weeks, this natural food supply will be worth its weight in gold as a dove attractant. Birds were already flying, actually I probably arrived a little too late to catch the peak of the afternoon flights.

I set there on the stool waiting for the first shot for a good twenty minutes, my mind backtracking to the first ‘sure nuff’ dove hunt I enjoyed back in 1962 with my uncle and aunt near in Waller County, a few miles west of Houston. I was surprised how vividly I recalled the details of this hunt. I recall the cut-over corn field we were shooting over and one particular shot I made with my 12 gauge Stevens single shot shotgun that was bored full choke. The flock was probably in migration and whistled by high overhead. I remember swinging well ahead of the lead bird and folding him. Looking back, it was a lucky shot but my uncle and aunt made me feel like a world class skeet shooter.

Then I was brought back to the present...a couple of dove were winging their way toward my spot there by the barn. They crossed a mere 20 yards in front of me, obviously attracted by the decoys. My first shot missed the lead bird but the second connected with the other dove.  I placed the bird in a soft pack I carry with ice. I enjoy eating dove as much as I do hunting them.

I was enjoying reminiscing about past hunts so much that I missed the opportunity at another dove that came sailing in directly over the top of the barn. He was on top of me one second and then out of range the next. I had to pay closer attention to the present if I intended to shoot enough birds for a cook out, but was enjoying my trip back in time recalling past hunts. I was doing a pretty good job of recalling at least one or two hunts from different periods of my life. 

Obviously, after all these years hunting, many of the friends and family I enjoyed spending time with were gone but, setting here by this isolated barn alone, I didn’t feel alone. I somehow could sense their presence and recall all the great times we had together. A couple more missed opportunities and I finally connected with an easy double as they slowed their flight right in front of me. Dove are ‘flocking’ birds and often are easy to decoy, especially with decoys with either spinning or flapping wings.

As I picked up my decoys and made ready to head back home, I felt as though I had been hunting with all the fine folks that I’ve enjoyed spending time with in past years. In many ways, I had.
Luke’s book, Kill to Grill, the Ultimate guide to hunting and cooking wild hogs is available via his website
www.catfishradio.org. Here you can also listen to his weekly radio show.