Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Hit More Doves

                                 White-Winged Dove

The Texas Dove Season opener is right around the corner.  Each year around this time I try and write an article with tips that will help you become a better wing shot. After all much of the fun of a real Texas style dove hunt is being able to out shoot all your buddies and friends, right! This will be a long article and one you may wish to print and file where you can refer back to it. 

One of the biggest mistakes I see is that many hunters spend a great deal of money on their guns, a place to hunt, license and equipment and then skimp on ammunition.  I am not going to grade the different brands of dove loads but will say that some of them are not worth even shooting much less spending your hard earned money on them.  You should test some of the loads on clay birds and pattern boards.  If they kick really hard and blow confetti paper out the barrel when you shoot, don't spend your money on them.  I look for at least a 1 ounce payload of shot in a 12 gauge and a plastic wad.  If they have a 1 1/8 ounce load of shot even better, save the 7/8 ounce 12 gauge loads for cheap practice sessions.  If you look in the back of my truck you will most likely see Estate, Federal or at least Remington Shurshot loads for dove because I have confidence in these loads.  I do not get any ammo for free or any special deals, so I pay hard earned cash for my shells just like you do.  Shotshells designed for shooting Sporting clays are more often than not a really good choice of shot shell for dove hunting.  I find I just do not shoot as well with the 7/8 ounce super special price box store loads and they seem to have lots of holes in the patterns.  I very seldom have a box of shells in my truck that actually are labeled Dove Load, unless I have a bunch of kids just learning to shoot and I want to get them familiar with shooting and gun handling with the cheapest shells I can find, or I am hunting over a brushy or tree covered tank where the shooting is close. Test some different brands and loads before the season and find the brand and shells that you break the most targets with. Opening day is not the place to find out your bargain confetti blasting shells throw patterns that a turkey could fly through. 

Remember that recoil is not your friend.  The best shooters in the clay shooting sports are not shooting high brass magnum loads and they are not needed in most Dove hunting situations.  Shoot a load that is comfortable to shoot in hot weather clothing as wherever you are in Texas the September season is usually very hot.

                                 Eurasian Collared Dove

This statement is to all my hunting buddies across this great State of Texas along with those that have attended one of my shooting seminars or classes.  Remember shoot to miss in front and stay focused.  If you miss, do something different.  If you miss the first time and don't change your lead or swing speed you will miss the next shot.  Most importantly if you are going on a hunt and need a shooting buddy don't forget to call Wild Ed.
                                 Mourning Dove

I spent many years shooting competitive Sporting Clays and also as a National Sporting Clays Association Level II gunning instructor teaching others to hit more targets. I have helped lots of shooters to improve their shooting techniques and skills. In the following section I want to give you some tips to make you a better wing shot and to help you have more fun in the field. Dove hunts in Texas are often a social event and a chance to be among friends. It is always more fun if you can hit your targets.  Here are a few ways that can help you drop more dove with fewer shells fired per bird.

1. Practice: Do not just go out and blast away, have someone that is a better shooter than you watch your style and help you along. A professional lesson or two are well worth the investment.  Don't take advice from someone that you can out shoot, as most of the time it will not help you in becoming a better shooter.  If you have no one to help you, get a good video or book to help you along. Practice your mount in front of a mirror until you become smooth and fluid.  When you drop a bird freeze what you did in your mind so that you can repeat it.  Always remember speed is not fast, smooth is fast.

2. Focus: Learn to focus on the eye of the bird or front of the target. Too many people focus on the whole target or on bird’s tails as they are easily seen. Have you ever shot at a bird and it leaves a trail of floating tail feathers. I wonder why? Focus on the head or eye of the bird; I have had people call me when they see a dove blink for the first time. It will happen if you focus on the eyes or beak of the bird and you will be amazed as your bird count goes up. 

3. Mount on the target or just in front: Many people practice the old style of pass through shooting where they come from behind the target and try to brush it out of the sky. No one with this method wins major competitions anymore.  Most people that come from behind a target never catch up and shoot behind most of their targets.Your shot string is approximately six foot long, if the first pellet in the string goes behind the target guess where the rest of them go? If half of the shot string goes in front of the target you still get a kill. What does all this mean? It means you should always mount in front of the target and never get behind it in your swing and follow through. Shoot to miss in front of the bird and watch the dove start hitting the ground.

4. Move, Mount, Shoot: This phrase should be engraved in your mind. Move with the flight of the bird. This means move the gun with the flight of the bird in the ready to mount position (NOT MOUNTED) when the bird reaches the area where you wish to shoot simply mount the gun on the front of the bird, pull out in front of the target and pull the trigger. I see hunters every year that spot a dove coming in from a long way off and mount the gun and track the bird, shoot and miss. Yet when someone yells BIRD and they look up, see the bird, mount and shoot in one fluid smooth motion, they crush it. If you track the bird you will almost always try to aim and miss the bird.

5. Do Not Aim: The bead on a shotgun is not to aim with unless you hunt turkeys or shoot slugs. Compare it to the hood ornament on a car; it is simply there for your subconscious to know you are on target. Focus only on the target so you can swing smoothly and stay in front of the target. If you feel like your swing is jerky in movement it means you are changing focus from the target to the front bead and back to the target. A shotgun swing is not jerky, only your focus back and forth. This is one of the most important tips I can give you. Consider the shotgun bead the "miss me bead" and stay focused on the front of the bird not the bead.

Remember that most misses are behind so increase your lead if you are not connecting on previous shots. If you are missing don't keep shooting the same way. Change the amount of lead, choke or swing but change something. If you miss the first shot and do the same thing on the second shot you will miss it also.

All of the above tips will help you be a better shot but there are also other tools and methods that you can use to bring the dove in closer to you and that will help you get more shots at those flighty dove.

Clothing: White or bright clothing is definitely out as it will scare the birds. Camo or dark earth tones that will match the terrain you are hunting in. As it is super hot this time of year remember to keep the clothing light in weight for coolness. Put on a good insect repellent as ticks and chiggers are out in force this time of year.

Decoys: I often carry a few plastic decoys that clip on to tree limbs or barbwire fences. It is amazing how many dove coming down a field will fly by and check the decoys. The new decoys with the moving wings are very effective in drawing dove within range.

Eye Wear: During the early and late shooting hours I like to wear amber, brown or rose colored shooting lenses as the contrast gives me better target acquisition. During the bright part of the day I wear dark brown, green or smoke lens colors to kill the glare.  Shooting glasses can also save your eyes from powder burns, brush and the hunter that peppers you with shot.  I never hunt or shoot without them. 

Choke Choice: Unless you are shooting high flying pass over doves you should leave the modified and full chokes in the case. Improved cylinder will help most hunters increase the number of birds in the game bag. If I am sitting at a small tank or a feeding area I will often shoot a skeet or cylinder choke for the more open pattern.

Shot size: I carry at least two sizes with me to change the density and distance. I mostly shoot 8 shot as it has good distance and a dense pattern without many holes. If I need to extend my distance just a bit I will use 7 ½ shot. The pattern has a few more holes in it but it will get me another 10 yards of kill distance.  You can also extend your distance a little farther with 8 shot by going to a modified or improved modified choke.

Barrel length: I am a fan of longer shotgun barrels as I find it is harder to mess up a good swing and most shooters follow through better with a long barrel. A short barrel tends to increase poking or spot shooting and makes it very easy to stop your follow through swing. Remember to insert the barrel in front of the bird pull out and shoot while keeping the gun moving until the target falls. Follow through is very important and hard to maintain with short barrels.

Hydration: The temperatures this time of year can be extremely hot so drink lots of water or sport drinks. Keep the alcoholic beverages locked away until after the guns are cased for the day. Don’t forget to keep fluids in your canine buddy as dogs can get heat stressed easily this time of year.

I don’t want to be a person that harps about safety, but in teaching Shotgunning classes and hunting for over 50 years I have seen two shotguns discharged accidentally. As far as we could tell both were mechanical failures and not caused by the shooter. In both cases no one was hurt because those involved were safe gun handlers and always made sure their guns were pointed in a safe direction. I have also seen several bird hunters peppered by shot from other hunters that could have been deadly at a closer range. I have a friend that lost a nephew in an instant when he stood up in front of another hunter as ducks came in and was shot at close range. These instances have let me know just how quick a life could be taken. Just a reminder to always point your firearm in a safe direction, make sure of your firing lanes and know where the other hunters in your group are at all times. Last never bet your life on a mechanical safety device.  Don't get in the habit of clicking the safety off everytime you see a bird, just slip it off as you mount to fire.

Be safe and have a great hunt, Wild Ed

North Zone:

Regular Season Sept. 1-Oct. 24, 2012 and

Dec. 22, 2012-Jan. 6, 2013

Central Zone:

Regular Season Sept. 1-Oct. 24, 2012 and

Dec. 22, 2012-Jan. 6, 2013

South Zone:

Regular Season Sept. 21-Oct. 28, 2012 and

Dec. 22, 2012-Jan. 22, 2013

Special White-winged Dove Area:

Note: The dates are distinct from the rest of the South Zone

Special Season

(Legal shooting hours are noon to sunset) Sept. 1-2 and Sept. 8-9, 2012

Regular Season Sept. 21-Oct. 28, 2012 and

Dec. 22, 2012-Jan. 18, 2013

Bag Limits Each Zone:  15 per day, 30 possession  Check with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department for updates and season changes.



Henry Mitchel said...

Perfect tips. Thanks for that. Your blog is full of meat. :)

Anonymous said...

Wild Ed,
How do I email you? The link on your blogsite doesn't work. Great blog. Thanks.

Wild Ed said...

The email link under my picture at the top left hand side of the page is now working. Thanks for letting me know of the problem. Ed