Case: It's almost time to go hunting again

Start of dove season calls us back outdoors

These cocker spaniels might be looking forward to dove hunting season as much as outdoors columnist Larry Case, who reminds those intending to be ready for next month's activities not to wait to prepare.

Where did it go?

Summer ain't over, but I wouldn't worry about buying anymore swimming trunks or flowery Hawaiian shirts this year. By the end of August, you are going to be looking for that fleece jacket on a chilly evening. When September gets here (I am told that is next month), boom! We will be in the thick of it - hunting season, that is.

Are you ready for it? No, me neither, but maybe some of these words will help you, as my buddy says, "Git ready!"

Sept. 1 is the traditional kickoff date in most states for the mourning dove season. This is also usually the first day many of us wander outside with a shotgun since the end of the previous hunting season.

The composition of a dove hunt can vary widely depending on your location, social status and intensity for the sport. In the South, a dove hunt can be an elaborate affair with dozens of shooters, mouthwatering barbecue and a festive atmosphere, with many of the local society's who's who in attendance. A hunt of this scale is usually held on private land that has been groomed for weeks, agriculture-wise, to ensure there are lots of doves around.

A dove hunt can also be you and five of your buddies in two pickup trucks with coolers of bologna sandwiches and Dr Pepper at a public hunting area you have scouted out and hope there are a few doves in. I have been on hunts on both sides of this aisle, and while I enjoy it all, I tend to hang more with the guys in the banged-up Chevy trucks with a Skoal ring on their back pockets. (Mostly because I don't get invited much to the other kind!)

So what do you need to do to get ready for the dove opener?

First, get that scattergun out of the closet and get yourself to the shotgun range, and I mean like now - do it this week. Trap shooting is OK, though skeet or sporting clays are better. Even if it is you and your buddy with a hand thrower for the clays, get out there and burn some powder. If you are like most of us, you probably have not shown that shotgun the light of day all summer. If you know anything about doves, you know they will show you no mercy and do their best to embarrass you in front of God and everyone.

Doves are hard to hit, make no mistake, so all the practice you can get prior to opening day will benefit you.

The first day of dove season is usually hotter than a $2 pistol, so be ready with a cooler of ice and water and maybe some Gatorade. Many dove hunters take a dog to the dove field, usually a retriever, and if you do, make sure you have plenty of water for your canine buddy and make arrangements to get him in the shade. Sunscreen is a must, and figure on plenty of shotgun shells. Low-brass field loads are fine, I would use No. 7 1/2- or No. 8-size shot and do not handicap yourself using a choke that is too tight in your shotgun.

Leave the turkey chokes and full chokes at home - a modified choke is fine, and you may even want an improved cylinder choke. If you are looking for a new shotgun for the dove field, consider the CZ-USA Supreme Field. This is a production over-and-under shotgun with the looks and feel of a custom shop gun. Grade III Turkish walnut, a receiver of polished nickel chrome, automatic ejectors and 28-inch barrels make this a very snazzy shotgun.

After spending time under a shade tree and drinking plenty of ice water, the next thing you need on a dove hunt is something to sit on while you wait on the doves. Folding chairs are nice, but one of handiest things I have seen is the Venture Bucket Pack from Peregrine Field Gear, which is a five-gallon bucket that is insulated for ice and water that fits into a handy pack with shoulder straps. The pack has several pockets for ammo, Little Debbie cakes and other necessities.

The lid swivels on top of the bucket so you can sit and turn in any direction. It's a very handy rig, it has a lifetime guarantee and you are going to like it.

OK, we will have to talk about getting ready for squirrels, deer and ducks next time. For now, get that shotgun out and get ready for those doves.

If anyone gives you any grief about how can you shoot a pretty little bird like a dove, just tell them what I always do: I hardly ever hit one anyway.

"The Trail Less Traveled" is written by Larry Case, who lives in Fayette County, W.Va. You can write to him at