Steve Comus – GUN TALK

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Monday, July 27, 2009
Kim keeps winning
Friday, August 21, 2009
Nosler E-Tip

Shell shock

    As the dove hunt opener Sept. 1 (a Tuesday) approaches, it is time to get ready for hot-barrel action. Each year has its idiosyncrasies, and 2009 is no different. The most universal advice is to make sure you have enough shells.

    Although there have been no significant shortages of shotshells on as there have been some centerfire rifle and pistol ammo, better to be safe than sorry. In some places, non-toxic ammo is required, so if that is the case where you’ll be hunting, get the right stuff.

    All legal shotgun gauges CAN work fine for doves, but 12 and 20 dominate the scene. For lead loads, use No. 7 ½ or 8 shot, and for steel, try 7 or 6. Skeet (open) choking is fine for cropland shooting, while improved cylinder usually does fine overall and just about anywhere.

    Bird forecasts were all over the map as August began. I have been monitoring the bird activity in Southern Arizona recently, and those folks who are planning to go east of the Colorado River for the opener should have hunts that range from good to outstanding.

    Agricultural areas are holding lots of birds, and that is actually kind of normal. The open desert areas, however, are a little different and kind of nice. Birds are quite scattered in the open areas, and there are enough of them to keep a crew of shooters busy if they hunt smart.

    Unlike some years, the monsoons have been scattered and have occurred more at night than during the mid-day or late afternoon times. Overall, it has been a rather dry monsoon season in a lot of the open areas.

    For reasons known only to the birds themselves, it has resulted in activity virtually all day long (bear in mind that in Southern Arizona, the first season allows for hunting only in the morning and you need a state hunting license and state migratory bird {dove} stamp).

    What this means is that even though there is pretty good activity at sunup, this is not one of those years when you want to head out of the field by around 9 a.m. when the temperatures start getting really hot. There seems to have been enough activity from 9 a.m. to noon to make it worth hanging tough if a limit is not achieved earlier.

    Open desert doving can require a lot of moving around. Binoculars are a must. Once anything that hints of a flight pattern is spotted, go directly there and be in-line when the birds come over.

    Watch through the binoculars all of the areas around the mesquite bushes and any other landmarks for activity. During the mid to late morning, birds often flit from one bush to another. It can be effective to walk through the desert, pushing-up doves.

    Make certain the gun can hold no more than three shots, and have the proper hunting license(s) in possession when going afield. No need to get dinged for a technical violation.

Steve Comus is a nationally recognized hunting editor with Safari Club International and a former WON Guns and Hunting Editor. His column appears every other week in WON and he can be reached at

DOVE HUNTING works with about any kind of shotgun. Here, David Miller used a Blaser F3 sporting clays gun to take a dove.

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