Dove Hunting at Milnesand

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Joined: 06/03/2010

Dove Hunting at Milnesand
      I had been living in New Mexico for a while when my friend Sam (although that’s not his real name and I won’t use it without his permission) asked me if I was interested in going dove hunting with him. I had been quail hunting with Sam a few times and knew that he had an intimate knowledge of the area, since he had lived around Portales most of his life. He had worked on many of the farms and ranches in the area and knew people far and wide who would let him hunt on their land.
      I had the required hunting license and a shotgun so I figured I was in good shape with a box or two of field loads but Sam said we needed enough for a whole days hunting, so he would bring around two dozen boxes of light dove/quail  loads. Although he was an avid reloader, Sam also bought shells by the case from a friend who ran a general store where he got them at discount prices. He was a regular collector who was always searching out a deal on guns or ammunition.
      Early one Saturday we headed for Milnesand (which, incidentally, is the home of the prairie chicken festival!) where Sam knew a rancher who had ample acreage of milo planted and where the dove flocks would be feeding. I was amazed by the numbers of birds that were circling the fields. We set up at the edge of a large field with a few small hedgerows alongside and started shooting at the morning feeding frenzy! I soon realized why Sam had insisted on two dozen boxes of shells; I think my first dove took almost a full box.
       I had shot at a variety of birds over the years, including the thunderous partridge of the north woods, cackling pheasants in the Midwest corn fields, whirling little timber doodles in the damp thickets and more recently the wonderful quail which was almost a tie with the ruffed grouse as my favorite quarry and considered myself a fair shot, but dove hunting was a whole new ballgame!
       I never saw birds twist and dive and turn as fast as the white winged flyers we were shooting at that morning. Some birds came in flocks of probably 50 or 100 at a time while some came in singly or in pairs. No matter how they presented themselves they were almost impossible to hit! I tried leading them, I tried swinging along and following through but I still missed! These birds seemed to have been able to frazzle my shooting skills into a tattered mess of misses by using their super flying ability.
      I was constantly shooting where the birds had been and missing so many shots I was soon very frustrated. I think those doves could actually see the shot charge and dodge it! Sam was a fine shot with rifle or shotgun and he had collected two or three birds to my one but even he missed a fair amount, which gave me a small bit of consolation for my wounded pride. I suspect Sam may have missed a lot on purpose just so I wouldn’t look too bad! As the morning wore on we finally saw the feeding slack off and we took our cue to go for a lunch break and a chance to rest my sore shoulder.
      When our lunch break ended we returned to the hunt and chose a new field so the doves could regroup and recover for the evening feeding fest. We were soon shooting at a furious pace and racking up a fair number of birds, which for me was six or seven maybe. My shooting improved by the end of that day but I was still missing far more than I hit. At the end of our hunt we each finally had our days limit and headed home for a well deserved rest.
      The doves were cleaned and would be added to the menu for our annual wild game deep-fry cook out event. All of our hunting friends saved quail, pheasants, ducks or turkey, whatever was bagged throughout the hunting seasons, for a kind of cook fest where we deep fried all the birds and had sumptuous side dishes of southwest fare to make a feast fit for kings. This often coincided with the Super Bowl weekend by some coincidence.
      I hunted doves with Sam several more times over the next few years and each time was a great experience and made for exciting shooting. My only regret is that my shoulder usually only survived one good day each season because of the amount of shooting I had to do to hit a dove! I had to rest up before going again and besides, I had to save myself for the quail!
      I have to be honest and admit that I really don’t like dove hunting as much as I love other upland game hunting. The dove shooting is fast and clearly challenging but I will always love the booming of a partridge lifting in front of me or the flurry of a covey rising up toward the sky as I lift my gun more than frantically shooting at doves whistling by me. Perhaps I will tell you about my prairie chicken hunt next!

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Joined: 05/25/2010
A sport...

...that was truly invented by ammunition manufacturers! When I go dove hunting, the ratio seems to be one box, one bird! It's like the little bas****s can see the shot coming an easily move enough to evade. And no matter how tightly the flock is packed, shooting into the middle of them doesn't work either. Good post, Chris.