It's July, have you hugged your rifle lately? I haven't, and it's high time I did. Despite what the calendar says deer season is right around the corner. Soon, the heat of Labor Day will give way to cool mornings, cooler nights and the anticipation of days on stand we crave all year. Though spring presented me with innumerable warm days without rain, I passed up too many opportunities for a tune-up at the range.
I need a little recoil in my life.
What rifle should I carry into the woods this year? I could dust off Dad's old Marlin. It's not only good for deer, but the .35-caliber slug it throws is ideal for bears that appear seemingly out of the blue (and with greater frequency than ever) in the Blue Ridge Mountains each November. The view through the Marlin's Redfield Widefield is a bit milky these days, but the last time I shot the rifle the scope still held zero; no reason to expect anything different now. There's my trusty .270 Featherweight. Of course I'd need to mount a new scope on it, because I pulled off the Leupold Vari-X II years ago and put it on my understudy gun—a Remington 504 rimfire. Or I could opt for my latest favorite, the Kimber 84M in .308 Win. After all, that rifle and I go together like peas and carrots.
There's nothing like a day at the range in mid-summer to remind a rifleman why he shoots. The weather can be blazingly hot, but beneath the roof at the range it isn't so much the heat but the cacophony of sounds that begs my attention. I watch as benches are positioned just so, as rifle cases are unzipped, ammo cans opened and staplers tap-tap targets to backboards. Blasts ring out from rifles new and old made for sport and for war. Old-timers chew the fat. Youngsters exclaim, "That wasn't too bad," while rubbing sore shoulders.
This season I'll use the Kimber again. But first, I'll tune up with the Remington rimfire. There's nothing like the absence of recoil to expose bad habits that crept into my mind with Old Man Winter.
Amid the clamor I begin my work in sandals, shorts and a T-shirt. Steadily, surely I breathe, relax, squeeze and fire. Then I fire again and again until I'm convinced it's time to move to the centerfire. I don the recoil pad and follow through on a promise I make to myself every year—to pay the bill now that will come due in November.
I love July almost as much as November. Where else on Earth besides America can a guy hear the sounds of freedom represented by the fireworks of Independence Day and gunshots at the local range? Do yourself and your fellow patriots a favor this month: Annoy anti-gunners by sending well-placed rounds downrange every chance you get.
Teamwork in the Dove Field
Find the Local Buffet
Noting dove food choices available in your area pays dividends when scouting fields. Freshly harvested grains like corn, wheat and millet are always top choices. Seeds of sunflower, safflower, sesame and smartweed also rate high. If grains and seeds aren't present look for freshly harvested hay fields with clover, alfalfa or lespedeza, or cattle feed lots. Pond banks provide fine grit doves use to fulfill digestive needs after feeding.
Doves travel to and from roosting sites to feed and water, so note the direction they fly when entering and exiting the field. Tree lines, waterways, roadways and utility lines—all are common flyways. Position hunters to take advantage of them.
Pick a Stand
Any stand that allows hunters to intercept birds as they enter/exit a field will see plenty of action, but shooters on the perimeter have the advantage. Shooters inside the field must settle for birds that have "flown the gauntlet" (frightened birds test the best shooting skills). Pick a stand as close as possible to two factors—water/feed, roosting site/flyway entrance, etc.
Depending on the size of the field, it could take several dozen hunters to keep the doves flying. Most shooting is conducted just outside the range of another hunter. Doves often swoop downward and become low-flying targets. Avoid shooting at low flyers. It's wise to wear not only ear but eye protection because pellets sent up must come down.
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Like the fossilized skeletons of its ancestors displayed in the Smithsonian, a 12-foot alligator can be scary even when it's dead—something that Shooting Illustrated's Adam Heggenstaller learned in person during a gator hunt in Florida. Read More »