September 1, marked something of a national holiday for our camo-clad Navarro County residents, Opening Day of Dove Season! While we are now well into dove season, there is still time to work out the last of our bad shooting habits, learn some tips and lay out our late season plans!
There’s a lot to be said for sporting clays as a means of dove hunting preparation; in sporting clays, targets fly at varying speeds angles. Skeet and trap is great practice, too. The message should ring loud and clear, simply shooting a shotgun is not enough. Aerial target shooting is critical and it’s not just for dove hunting; it’s great practice for all types of wingshooting, including ducks!
The Trick to Aiming – Don’t Aim!
Easier said than done, in my humble opinion, because we have a natural tendency to take our time and aim whether we’re shooting shotguns, rifles, handguns, bows or even slingshots. But, there is a lot to be said for instinctive shooting. Instinctive shooting means mounting your shotgun, bow or handgun, looking down the barrel, or arrow, and firing. Instinctive archery is great for wingshooting and bowfishing, instinctive handgun shooting can be critical for self-defense in the heat of the moment, and instinctive shotgun shooting … well, it’s great for DOVE and other winged speed-demons!
The greatest tip I ever received about dove hunting was to mount my shotgun late and forget about aiming – be instinctive. Let me refresh you on the happenings of my 2012 Opening Day. I did some things right, some things terribly wrong and some things… I just did.
“Don’t aim. Don’t aim. Don’t aim.” I’m not sure how many times I said it. It was never audible but I repeated it constantly until my wondering thoughts collided with thundering reports from Bradley’s shotgun. He had two birds down before I even lifted my shotgun. Soon after, a single dove dropped in behind me. I swung around, mounted my Browning Maxus 12-gauge and pulled the trigger. A crash landing and shower of drifting feathers immediately followed.
Not long after my first kill, another bird flew in behind me. I swung again and plucked him from the sky at 30 yards without hesitation. Two in a row left me quite cocky. Bradley shouting, “Kevin stole that one from you, Clyde!” didn’t help at all. I was a force to reckon with. Three birds dropped in on my right, three shots rang out and three birds flew off to the west. “What happened? They were on top of you, Kev!” I smiled gingerly as I turned to look back and found all three of my so-called friends laughing at my expense. We rested for quite a while; the birds were slow.
Late morning produced more opportunities. Some I hit squarely while others I missed by a mile. Clyde only shot when he felt like it but was quite deadly. If he took 15 shots, he must have hit 10 birds. Bradley’s shooting was reminiscent of Vincent Hancock shooting skeet in London – solid gold! If I had to guess, Bradley hit a dozen birds with a half box of shells, quite an amazing feat! Mitch finished the morning with a truckload of stock photos and some great dove hunting footage. Me, I left the field a bit wiser and with a smile on my face.
That morning offered four hours of self-discovery. I focused hard on the lessons I spoke about in my previous article and realized that my effectiveness increased dramatically when I did not aim and did not mount my shotgun in preparation for incoming birds. I also noticed that when I did mount the shotgun early, even when I thought I was shooting instinctively, I wasn’t. For me, too much thinking is my undoing when wingshooting.
My good friends, Corsicana residents Arron Cottongame and Jason Gamez also did well that morning; of course, I’ve hunted with Arron and Jason and both hold their own with a shotgun, largely because of frequent practice and effective shooting techniques. Trust me when I tell you, “There’s something to this not aiming biz!”
Best of luck to all of my fellow dove hunters out there! Make sure you have your new hunting license, plenty of shells, a great attitude and someone to share the memories. Above all, stay safe out there. Get ‘em boys!
Hunt hard, hunt often.
Kevin can be reached for questions, comments and suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org.