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Opening of dove season.

* This is a time of merriment, joy-making and loud parties at Remington, Winchester and Federal, the ammunition companies. Freight cars full to bursting with shotgun shells, all labeled "dove loads," are on the way to those states where the dove season will soon open.

There is no question that the dove shooter or better, "the guy who shoots at doves," burns more ammo than all other hunters combined.

The grouse hunter often goes a full season on the same box of 12-gauge shells. The quail hunter might buy a second box if the season is a particularly good one.

The turkey hunter, though, is the shootist who shoots the least. Granted, a box of 12-gauge Mags costs an arm and a leg, but they last a long time. In fact, when I started turkey hunting I stuffed my pockets with the big mags. I soon got smart, and now I only carry the three--in the gun. I have been loading the same sheels into the gun and taking them out so often that the plastic is starting to wear thin.

The three have developed unique characteristics that enable me to tell them apart. I have even given the shells appropriate names. "Fats" is the one with the shot bulging, making minute bumps on the outside. "Rusty" is naturally the one dropped in the marsh and later retrieved. I always thought the "brass" was brass and would not rust.

And of course last, but not least, is the shiny new and unnamed one. It is new, because last year I yielded to temptation and blasted at a high flying crow.

I now have a box with one shell missing, and I have mentioned in my will that whoever inherits the gun also gets the box of turkey loads. The way I figure it, he should get at least 20 rounds and have enough to turkey hunt for his life and still supply shells to his progeny.

There are many shooters who just can't seem to hit the fast flying doves. I have seen these poor fellows go to the fields time and again, only to come home with bruised shoulders and empty pockets. One such fellow took the coward's way out and instead of shooting all afternoon simply bought a bag of No. 8 shot, took it out to a drove field and pouted the entire bag out on the ground. He explained the result was exactly the same, but it was a lot less noisy, and the recoil didn't hurt his shoulder.

It was rumored that Remington was developing a heat-seeking shotshell. Made particularly for the inept dove hunter, the shot was programmed to searched the sky for the hot body of the flying bird, then, through a miracle of modern science, track and kill.

Unfortunately, the engineer working on the project tried the new shot shells at the local skeet field. He was the only one at the field, and he forgot to heat the clay targets. He is no longer working on the project. In fact, he is no longer working on any project.

Choice of anti-aircraft equipment divides the shooters into two groups. There are those who ascribe to the theory, "if you throw enough shot into the air something is going to fall." They believe in the big-bore gauge loaded with at least 1-1/8 ounces of shot.

Every so often you find a corner of a cornfield littered with high brass empties telling of a shooter and a full 1-1/4 ounces of lead shot.

One chap (he claimed he did it just for fun, but I think it was out of desperation) loaded his goose gun with No. 8 shot. He stuffed the big 10-gauge, 3-1/2-inch magnums with a full 2 ounces of shot. He figured with this cannon he could blank-out at least a quarter of the sky. Anything flying in that quadrant would automatically be bagged.

A half a box of such reloads loosened his wisdom teeth, produced a giant-size headache and made him a little deaf. He staggered toward his pick-up truck with a lone and mutilated dove.

Opposing the "Let's throw a lot into the air and see what falls" bunch is a small group of .410 shooters. Armed with 1/2 ounce of shot and using the little "pop" gun, they await the flight with as much chance as they would have were they waving a stick.

The most egotistical braggart is the .410 shooter who had to quit shooting because he bagged his limit. A shooter filled with such intoxicating verve walks 6 inches above the ground for days.

The doves seems to like a hot, windless day. In Virginia, though, the hunting starts at noon and most of the birds seek the cool of the woods until early evening. Occassionally, even during the hottest part of the day, a streamlined flyer will be seen just out of shooting range.

Then you move to the new flight path, knowing full well that after you move the birds will fly where you used to be.

There is little reason to be in the middle of a cut over conrfield at mid-day. The few birds that fly then hardly make it worthwhile. But if you want to stake out a good spot, you had better be there first. So the prudent dove hunter, clad in his camouflage pajamas and toting a collapsible stool, his chosen shotgun and at least half a dozen boxes of shells, parks out in the sun and roasts.

And it does get hot. The relentless sun, which can be a joy in the early morning, seems to try to push you into the ground. You know it is hot when after firing the shotgun a half a dozen times at out-of-range birds, you then put your hand on the barrel and it feels cool to the touch.

Eventually, a sustained blast of fire from "over there" signals doves in flight. Naturally, you are in the less-than-perfect location. Your supply of ammo is gradually reduced, though the pile of shot birds remains disproportionately small.

All the while you and I are suffering the hardships of the dove hunt, back at the ammunition companies the partying and celebration goes on. Cheerfully, they toast the fast flying birds as they make ready to ship another freight trainload of shut gun shells.

They love dove shooting--almost as much as we do.
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Title Annotation:Parting Shots
Author:Wolff, Dick
Publication:Guns & Ammo
Article Type:column
Date:Sep 1, 1985
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