The Dove Opener


Although there are some scattered hunting opportunities already open around the country—there is even a deer season that opens in early July (Who would want to hunt deer in July?)—the September 1 dove opener is the traditional kick-off of the hunting season. It always amazes me to see the enthusiasm that exists to shoot a handful of 4-ounce birds. Even in politically correct southern California there is a large cadre of extremely dedicated dove hunters. Like the 4th of July or Christmas, the first of September is virtually a religious holiday, and all business and life halts in order to shoot a limit of the so-called bird of peace. By the way, if you want to see “the bird of peace” in action, take a gander at a group of them feeding in a picked-over grain field. It can resemble a cock fight.

I never used to miss the dove opener, but for the last 15 years or so I haven’t lived in decent dove country. Here in northwestern Wyoming we have a fair number of doves, but nine times out of ten a cold snap will occur within a day or two before September 1 and drive out most of the birds. As I write this it is August 29, and there are still quite a few birds still hanging out. Less than 100 yards from my front door is a harvested wheat field, and several dozen of the gray-brown birds are feeding in it morning and afternoon. My hope, of course, is that the first night of low 50s or high 40s doesn’t occur until after Thursday.
If you haven’t enjoyed a good dove hunt, you’re missing out on a lot of fun. It isn’t necessary to invest in a lot of specialized gear to have a great dove shoot. A 12- or 20-gauge, open-choked shotgun; a couple of boxes of light upland loads (7 1/2 or 8 shot); a stool and some water is all you need. Camo clothing is nice, but as long as you can sit still, the birds will come regardless. If you bring a dog, make sure he has plenty of water and at least some shade. Temps in most good dove areas are in the 90s or 100s, and every year hunters lose their dogs to heat stroke.

As for me, I am keeping my fingers crossed that I’ll have a decent shoot Thursday. If I do, Jim and I will share some favorite dove recipes with you on Game Kitchen Cowboys.

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