Kansas Dove Opener

Thursday, September 04, 2014 , 5 Comments

Lightning flickered far to the south as I pulled up to the field I had scouted days earlier. The time read 5:47 AM on the dash of my SUV and several others had beat me there. No worries, as each hunter slowly trickled into the sunflower field we all were all able to find adequate room and space ourselves 100 yds or so apart. This was September 1st and marked the beginning of the fall hunting season, anticipation was high for everyone. As the sun peaked over the horizon the first doves began their acrobatic maneuvers hoping to feast on the freshly cut sunflowers. Unfortunately for them they were met with a barrage of gunfire. To be honest it was a little insane. In every direction, from miles in the distance to only a hundred yards away the sound of shotguns erupted. This was my first dove opener and by far this was the most gunfire I had ever heard before. Typically I am the type of outdoorsman that enjoys solitude in nature. When fishing, hiking, or hunting I would much prefer to avoid contact with other hominids, so this was not my usual cup of tea. I have to tell you it was fun though. The guys to my right were ace shots. A bird within 40 yds of them didn't stand a chance, and they were able to reach out to many others. Several times I would see them swing on a bird I thought they didn't have a prayer in downing, but to my surprise they often would take it. 

I on the other hand was rusty. I hadn't touched my shotgun since the end of goose season in february and it showed. The first hour was painfully humbling. However, like riding a bike it started to come back and it helped that hundreds of doves would pour into the field over the next couple of hours. A single or double almost every minute would fly overhead and occasionally a group of a dozen or so would storm in together. 

Forget decoying on the opener; first, the sheer amount of hunters keeps the birds in the air and moving from field to field Secondly, decoyed doves tend to fly low and the last thing you want with that many people in a particular field is low firing barrels. I used a mix of #7 1/2 and #8 shot through an improved cylinder choke. As previously noted, as the morning wore on, my shooting improved considerably, that being said I burned through a lot of shells, more than I anticipated. By 10 AM I had my limit and headed home. One final observation; camouflage and limiting movement till the last second seemed to be the most important factors in getting the birds close, the three gentlemen to my left were decked out in blaze orange and the birds avoided them like the plagued. In the time I was there I maybe saw them down 3 birds. They left just before I did obviously frustrated. I will give the fields a rest for a few weeks and let the crowds dissipate. But soon I will be back, assuredly alone in a field, hunting my favorite way, over decoys in a blind, giving me just a taste of goose season which down here is still two months away.