Dove Opener Roundup...
CHOWCHILLA — The full moon kept the highway illuminated as I headed south along Interstate 5. I realized I had been making this drive annually since 1979 to the fields and river bottoms of Chowchilla and Madera. As I rolled onto Highway 152 east, "Moose" shifted inside his kennel in the back of the truck, "Zeus" barked and "Spot" let out a yelp. The hounds were anxious too! Sept. 1st, and we all had made it to another season!
I stopped the truck midway down a gravel covered levee. The feed corn was standing high to the north of the creek bottom, and a cut wheat field was about a half mile to the south. With pools of water in the irrigation ditches and lots of tall trees, once again my familiar dove spot looked promising in the pre-dawn light.
I released my excited K9 companions from their boxes, uncased the old 1100 skeet gun and dumped a box of 8's into my vest. My friends Mitch, Nick, who at 16 had never hunted doves before, and Robin Juliana, her Beretta auto ready after several trips to the skeet field, would be joining me for opening morning and shoot time was just 10 minutes away.
From the south they began to appear, darting above the trees, pulling amazing left and right swings that challenged the lead of my barrel. "On the right Mitch!" I shouted as 5 morning doves crossed over... Boom, Boom, Boom..... a pair of doves crashed to the dirt and "Moose" and "Spot" raced to retrieve them.
Robin was shooting to my left, a high incomer twirling to the earth! Nick's new auto loader was burning up shells fast. It was 15 minutes into shooting and I had 5 birds in my vest. Suddenly a flock of Eurasian collared doves was overhead, in formation headed west. "Cut em now!" and Robin, Nick and I unleashed a volley of 8's and 7½'s. The flock parted at the shots with birds going up, sideways and diving.... 9 shots and only 1 fell to our guns! The shooting continued for the next hour. In all we shot 9 boxes of shells for 40 morning doves, 7 Eurasians and 1 pigeon.
ROBIN JULIANA WITH her limit of doves shot Sept. 1 out of Chowchilla while hunting with WON Field Reporter Vince Crudele.
By 9 am, we were cleaning birds and looking for shade. A great start to the 2012 fall upland season.
Sunday morning and new friends would join me in the field. Eric Draper and his son, Aiden, of Davis, drove down to try their luck after a slow opener in the olive orchards near Woodland.
Aiden had his new 20-gauge pump and was hoping to take his 1st bird. 10 minutes into shoot time he raised the little Remington and dropped a mourning dove 25 yards out. "Zeus" dashed over and Aiden had his 1st mourning dove! Eric had the smile of a proud father and Aiden was ready to shoot some more! Another young hunter had just been made for life! High over us, 50 yards up 2 Eurasians were passing by. Eric and Aiden pulled on the left bird and their shots rang out as one. The larger white dove came floating down and "Moose" made the retrieve from the tree line.
Father and son managed a respectable 12 mourning doves between them before the flight ended. Our 2nd day was a bit slower, but still every bit as enjoyable, with new hunters being introduced to the wing-shooting sports, same as I had been back in 1979.
AIDEN DRAPER SHOT his first doves ever on opening day while hunting out of Chowchilla with his dad, Eric, and WON Field Reporter Vince Crudele.
The opening weekend of dove season was a great time for all of us. It is a tradition that we as sportsmen look forward to each year. I ran into an old friend Saturday on that levee road south of town. Gary Silva, thank you for all the memories. Gary's farm off Avenue 19½ was were I hunted doves for the very 1st time so many years ago. And just like me, Gary and his friends and family were also out for opening day.
I encourage all of you to take a new hunter out this September and share in the fun and enjoyment of a country dove hunt. It is an experience they and you will never forget!