Time for shotgun practice as dove season approaches – Herald Democrat

Like clockwork, the third rock from the sun continues to spin around the orbital path that marks a calendar year in this solar system for planet Earth.

And that means now that it’s actually August, there’s less than four weeks left for wing shooters to find the scattergun in the recesses of the safe, pull it out of the mothballs, and fire some cartridges at skeet targets ahead of the September 1st dove season opener which is fast approaching.

Now I understand that most dove hunters – and some years including yours – disregard this annual advice and show up for a season opening dove hunt around a waterhole , from a milo field or a worn out wheat field just hoping for the best.

Maybe you’re blessed with better natural shooting skills than me, or maybe your hand-eye coordination is Olympic-level superb. And for all I know, maybe you won the recent $1.28 billion Mega Millions Powerball lottery draw and have a few dove ammo trucks on your way home.

But if not – and especially if you’re filming like a certain outdoor writer in these parts – you may need all the help you can get to be ready when the law comes out. another hunting season in a few weeks.

Because ready or not, that’s when those fiery gray ghosts known as mourning doves will put on another air show with the kind of maneuvers that would make Captain Pete “Maverick” Mitchell and his sidekick blush. , Lt. Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw. craving straight out of Top Gun fighter flight school.

But if that’s not you, and it’s definitely not me, then it’s time to head over to Top Gun’s version of the dove hunter, or in this case, the proverbial back 40 where you’ll feel like to spend a few afternoons and/or evenings the rest of this month in serious preparatory work for the season opener on September 1 next month.

Hopefully you’ll splash a number of those orange bogeys – excuse me, those orange clay pigeons – and you’ll have a wing shooting season to remember, for positive reasons, that is- to say.

Want to play the game and go for the dove hunting version of fighter flight school? Well, well. And here’s a checklist to go through to make sure you’ll graduate at the top of your class on September 1.

First, take the shotgun out of the gun cabinet or safe and give it a good look. Clean it inside and out, give it a light coat of gun oil, and make sure all parts are still working properly after a summer season in the shade.

Next, if your favorite scattergun is pump-action or semi-automatic, be sure to check and make sure the plug is still in there. Trust me, you don’t want to suddenly remember that you pulled your cork out last spring during turkey season…especially when you see the game warden’s truck pull up in the field you’re hunting! The manager might not be as forgiving as a three star air chief admiral if you blundered here.

Once you’re sure the catch is in your shotgun, spend some time practicing safely – with an empty shotgun, of course – mounting the gun and swinging it properly. While some guys never seem to miss when real game birds are flying or clay pigeons are in the air, other of us certainly struggle. And often it’s because we don’t mount the gun properly on our shoulder and our eyes don’t look properly at the aiming plane of the gun.

When you’re ready to hit the field to powder clay pigeons, wear the same type of clothing you’ll wear in the field on September 1st. And remember to wear hearing protection and eye protection at all times. you enjoy an afternoon of filming.

When it comes to shooting clay birds, you’ll also want to use the same cartridge loads and choke setup you’ll be using when a Mourning Dove explodes next month.

In general, go for a more open shotgun choke for close range shooting, something like an upgraded cylinder or maybe even a skeet tube. If you’re using an over-and-under shotgun, side-by-side, or expect to shoot longer ranges, a modified choke might be just what the doctor ordered when smoke is in the air.

What about cartridge loads? While you can skimp and get by in many cases with the basement dove or field loads that many outdoor retailers will be putting on sale over the next few weeks, feel free to upgrade a little. This advice comes from my longtime friend Jim Lillis at Sherman, who encouraged me years ago to pay a little something extra for cartridges that have better components, a little more powder, and a little more guns in #7 1/2, #8, or even #9 pellets if you can find them.

They might not be as good as a surface-to-air missile in terms of accuracy, but they might be the best thing for a wing shooter.

While you can certainly take down a lot of doves with cheap stuff, upgrading to higher quality heavy dove loads or even a trap or sport clay load can pay off in the end. How is it? Requiring slightly fewer rounds spent bagging a limit, maybe even giving you a coveted limit inside a box. And on a day when birds aren’t flying fast and furious, such charges can be the difference between getting a limit or just running out.

Once you’ve got your shotgun, cartridges and hunting gear set up and ready to start practicing, I’ve always liked someone who uses a hand-operated skeet shooter rather as spring or electric starters. Why is that? Because a shooting buddy—my 20-year-old sons, for example—can make it harder to shoot with hard cruisers, tricky angles, and unexpected hits.

Especially when they sit and snicker when they miss dear old daddy again.

While hunts in early September often give dove hunters the kind of occasional cream puff shot, it doesn’t take long for the local birds to find out and start performing aerial maneuvers straight from the island of the North of Top Gun.

As NFL coaching legend Vince Lombardi once said, “Practice doesn’t make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect. In dove hunting terms, that means not just practicing the easy shots, but also getting skilled on the tougher ones, the kind you’ll likely see on the field in early fall.

After that, repetition becomes a big key over the next month. Such shooting practice now – as the saying goes, wash, rinse, repeat – should make all the difference when the law takes effect in September.

Note that breaking a few clay pigeon crates in August doesn’t mean you won’t miss next month. But it will almost certainly make a positive difference in September when doves buzz around harvested grain fields, sunflower plots and area waterholes. Especially as the evening breeze picks up, they kick the afterburners and try to rush in.

Hopefully the pre-season work will now help you issue a few invites to the September dinner table, a memorable feast where you’ll serve the traditional recipe of dove breasts wrapped tightly in a blanket of bacon, jalapenos and cream cheese, then grilled over the glowing, smoky embers of a real mesquite wood fire.

Pay now with a dedicated August scattergunning practice here in the Red River Valley now, and chances are you’ll have a September to remember behind the scenes.

And maybe you’ll even graduate first in your Top Gun class, putting on a show that causes lots of backslaps and big smiles as everyone gathers around the tailgate on opening day.

It might be a vision straight out of a Hollywood blockbuster, but you can always dream, right?

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