Case: Don't say I didn't warn you that dove season is coming

Photo contributed by Larry Case / Mourning doves are the game of choice for many when it comes to returning to hunting after the summer layoff. Sept. 1 is often the kickoff date for the season, and a dove hunt can range from a catered affair with an emphasis on being seen to low-key ventures with your buddies and a cooler of bologna sandwiches.

Imagine my surprise when I checked the calendar just now and it seems we have arrived in August.

It has been so hot around here even the snakes are complaining, but 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 are 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. Despite knowing this was coming, this is also usually the first day many of us wander outside with a shotgun.

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 agriculturally 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 on a public hunting area that you have scouted out and hope there are a few doves using the area. I have been on hunts on both sides of the aisle, and while I enjoy it all, I tend to hang more with the guys in the banged-up Chevy trucks who have a Skoal ring on their back pocket. (This is mostly because I don't get invited much to the other kind!)

photo Photo contributed by Larry Case / While you're bound to do some sitting while waiting for the birds on a dove hunt, there's no reason to sit around in the weeks ahead of the season opening. Spending time at the shotgun range is one of the most important things dove hunters can do to prepare.

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

The first thing is to get that scattergun out of the closet and get yourself to the shotgun range, I mean like now, do it this week. Trap shooting is OK, but 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. And 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 in prior to opening day will benefit you.

The first day of dove season is usually hotter than a $3 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 plan to get him in the shade.

Sunscreen is a must, too, and figure on plenty of shotgun shells. Low-brass field loads are fine, and I would use No. 7 1/2 or No. 8 size shot, and do not handicap yourself using a choke in your shotgun that is too tight. Leave the turkey chokes and full chokes at home; a modified choke is fine, and you may even want an improved cylinder.

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 look 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.

If that doesn't turn your crank, how about the new (that's right, new!) Remington 870 FieldMaster from RemArms. The company that is now making Remington firearms, RemArms, has a new version of the tried-and-true 870, and it is called the FieldMaster. It's an 870, and if you have been wanting a new 870, you will love it. When you are done with the dove season you will use it on everything from ducks to pheasants to deer, just like Dad and Granddad did.

After a shade tree and plenty of ice water, the next thing you need on a dove hunt is something to sit on while you wait on the birds. Folding chairs are nice, but one of handiest things I have seen is the Venture Bucket Pack from Peregrine Field Gear. It's a five-gallon bucket that is insulated for ice and water, fits into a handy pack with shoulder straps and 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, has a lifetime guarantee, and you are going to like it.

OK, we will have to talk about gettin' 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 with questions such as "How can you shoot a pretty little bird like a dove?", just tell them what I always do: I hardly ever hit one anyway.

photo Contributed photo / Larry Case

"Guns & Cornbread" is written by Larry Case, who lives in Fayette County, W.Va. You can write to him at