It's impressive how long rows of ripe sunflowers, broad harvested grain fields and languid farm ponds with a dead snag or two really seize your attention in late August. Early squirrel season may have already been open for a couple of weeks, but who drives by woodlots looking for a stand of hickory nut trees?
When September is near, it's not a long Labor Day weekend that creates a sense of exhilaration in the air. Nope, sorry, such anticipation can be reserved only for the opening of dove season.
The mourning dove is arguably the most widely pursued gamebird in the United States and deservedly so. Mountains of shotgun shells are expended in pursuit of this royal bird, which is all right and proper. But the tradition associated with opening day for dove is much more ceremonial than just a date on the calendar for huge swaths of the country. Especially in the South, welcoming the entry of dove season often takes on a fervor frequently reserved for religious occasions of the highest order.
In most of the country dove season opens Sept. 1 at high noon. Obviously it is usually much too hot to hunt at such an uncivilized hour. Yet noon becomes the appropriate moment for dove hunters to gather under giant shade trees and ponder the coming mission, even though the instant to actually take the field may be hours away. Noon marks the beginning of the rituals: building a fire in the battered barbecue so sizzling deer and elk burgers flavor conversation with their perfumes; admiring shotguns, old and new; enjoying good-natured banter grading shooting skills, or lack thereof; chatting with the kids attending their first dove shoot as active hunters; catching up with old friends not seen since last Sept. 1. These hours of camaraderie built upon years of shared hunts, shotguns, dogs, hunting friends long since departed and new acquaintances just discovered are precious portions of sacred ceremonies.
The magical spell stretches into late afternoon when swarms of rocketing birds beckon the chatterers into action. Activity quickens. Shooting vests are donned; shells are selected; weather-beaten pickups are boarded; shouts of excitement include the calling of dogs—all amid final blessings for "good shooting."
In the field guns bark, doves moved constantly by the strategic placement of hunters. Shouts of frustration ring out as lessons are taught over and over again by a 6-ounce critter, two-thirds tail, whipping by at 60 mph. Soon, the tattered old game bag develops a satisfactory heft. The color of the sinking sun and the feeling of the blessed, cool afternoon breeze suggest it's time to give thanks.
So camo coveralls come off, shotguns are cased and lovingly stowed. Thoughts of a big black skillet and the smell of frying doves cause mouths to water. It is the perfect end to a perfect day.
How to Think Like a Rabbit
by J. Scott Olmsted,
Editor in Chief
Rabbit fur provides poor insulating qualities.
So think about it: Where would you escape the cold if all you had was a light jacket? Check briar patches and fruit brambles that offer shelter from the wind while remaining open to the warm rays of the January sun.
When hunting thick cover look for their eyes,
not their brown fur, to spot rabbits. A rabbit's shiny, round, dark eyes stand out against the monochromatic gray tones of the places it calls home like a dime on a cow pie.
Anyone who's hunted them knows rabbits are nervous critters, likely to bolt before they need to in the face of danger. When you enter a briar patch walk slowly, then stop, look and listen for about a minute. Then repeat. Your movement will likely flush a bunny from its hide. If not, the silent treatment should convince the critter it's been spotted and it'll make a run for it.
Contrary to popular belief,
rabbits don't exactly run in circles when chased by dogs. They do, however, tend to run within their range. If your beagle jumps a rabbit stand and wait—the dog will chase the rabbit back within shooting range.
Use an improved cylinder choke and No. 6 or 7 1/2 loads
to provide a wide, sufficiently heavy pattern without excessively damaging meat when hunting alone. Beagles push rabbits farther afield; switch to a modified or even a full choke and No. 4 or 6 loads when hunting with them.
New 2011 Ram Tradesman Could 2011 be the year of the work truck? If so, the Ram Tradesman is ready to clock in. Equipped with a juiced-up HEMI® engine for under $22K (excludes destination) and a standard class-four trailer hitch with 9,100-lb. towing capacity, it's available this spring at a dealer near you. It's a tricked-out tool that's anything but standard for under $22K.
Ready for Whatever Forget flashy rims and custom bed liners. Ram knows that what you really want in a heavy-duty pickup is improved performance. Our engineers figured out a way to deliver it with best-in-class 22,700 lbs. towing and an astounding 800 lb.-ft. of torque. We just improved proven.
Ram Truck Month Ram trucks offer impressive performance statistics, and the numbers keep getting even better. You'll get a no-extra-charge HEMI® upgrade* when you buy a Ram 1500 or 2500. There's Strength in Numbers. Now at Ram Truck Month.
*Offer based on factory-to-dealer reimbursement. Dealer contribution may affect final price. Take new retail delivery by 3/31/11.
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 »
Could 2011 be the year of the work truck? If so, the Ram Tradesman is ready to clock in. Equipped with a juiced-up HEMI® engine.... Read More »
The year that Sumner, Mo., erected a statue of "Maxie" to commemorate being the "Wild Goose Capital of the World."
Maxie sports a 65-foot wingspan while resting on a cinderblock building in a community park.
The number of cackling subspecies.
The cackling goose, a smaller-bodied goose prominent in Canada and Alaska, is a tundra-breeder with considerably more black plumage than the Canada. At one time, the cackling goose was considered the smallest subspecies of the Canada, but is now recognized as a separate species.