Next Sunday provides sports people a couple important events. Yes, it's the Steelers' opener. But it is also the chicken dinner being sponsored by the Blair County Conservation Officers Association (BCCOA) to benefit the David Grove Memorial.
David Grove was a Conservation Officer who was shot and killed in the line of duty Nov. 11, 2010 while attempting to apprehend two deer poaching suspects. Rather than get caught red-handed poaching deer, these two suspects preferred to murder WCO Grove.
The dinner will be held at the Brush Mountain Sportsman's Club located off Exit 39 (Pinecroft) of I-99. Contact Mark Luke at 932-5270 for ticket information. We need to honor this brave man.
Dove hunting commences now and provides much entertaining wing shooting which translates into a lot of shotgun shells used. Doves are tiny targets; it takes three or four to make a serving at the dinner table. I call them feathered rockets because their speed and aerial antics make them mighty hard to hit. Someone once told me it takes six or seven shotgun shells fired to bring down one dove and I believe it. On average, you'll miss a half dozen doves for every one you bag. Nevertheless, dove hunting ushers in the official start of the fall hunting season for most hunters.
Once you locate suitable habitat for them, hunting doves is usually a waiting game, which surprises many hunters. The first time I ever hunted doves, I thought we would tramp through fields and brush and boot them out and take quick shots, sort of like pheasant hunting, with which I was much more familiar.
Instead we wore camouflage clothes, took up posts near flyways, (the most likely place where doves flying from one field to another, would cross.) Dove hunters have already scouted out the likely "passing lanes" doves use as they zip from cornfield to cornfield or grass field to grass field.
Then sitting still is a must. Doves will be spooked royally by fidgeting hunters. Try to position yourself so that your shots will be at birds flying horizontally to you. Shots at these speedsters are difficult enough without trying to bag birds coming straight at you.
One piece of equipment that helps a lot is a portable seat. Not a cushion you use for turkey hunting but a small seat with legs. I got a very lightweight seat with long fold-up legs that is easy to carry or even to clip onto a belt if I wish. Some hunters tote along a bucket to sit on. Whatever is most comfortable for you. Trying to shoot at streaking birds while sitting on the ground is awkward at best. Standing on watch is fine if you are 20 years old. A seat gives you leverage for your feet, a great help when wing-shooting.
Most dove hunters prefer a shotgun with modified choke and shot sized from No. 7 through 9. To have any chance at all, you need a shot pattern that spreads well. When action slows down in the flyways, a group of hunters often spreads out in a field and slowly tramps through, trying to jump the birds up, much like pheasant hunting. If you have all day to hunt, a combination of tactics probably will offer up the most chances for shots. When a dove drops, keep your eyes peeled on the drop site. Unless you have a retriever along, a dove dropped into grass can be mighty hard to locate
As with all wild game, the key to finding them is habitat identification. Migrating flocks of doves look for grain, corn and overgrown weedy fields. They flit from one to the other and quickly learn the spots from which lead has come flying at them and they learn to avoid them. So dove hunters wear camouflage clothes and take up stakeouts near brush that helps to hide him.
Doves prefer to feed early in the morning and/or late in the afternoon. They often land on light lines to survey fields before they commit to landing there. But don't shoot at doves on a powerline; that's asking for big trouble.
Pennsylvania's dove population is estimated to be more than 7 million. I see about half of that number in front of my house (a non-shooting zone, of course) every morning when I go outside with my coffee to enjoy the cool morning. Knowing that your entire season's harvest number can be about 20 tells you how challenging they are to hunt and then to hit.
They are delicious table fare, however. Cooked in barbecue sauce, or pan fried like chicken or in chicken broth in a crock-pot they are a great dark-meat wild feast. I'm lucky to ever bag enough doves to get one meal for myself. Remember that to hunt doves, you must have a Migratory Game Bird License.