Weather: initial light rain, overcast, mid 80’s , humid
Location: East of Easton, MD
We were at the field a little over two hours before the opening time of noon. We had never hunted opening day in this field and did know how many hunters to expect. The clouds were moving in and we waited out a short rain shower in the truck, getting into the field at half past ten. Other hunters started to trickle in close to 11.
|Getting our Mojo On!|
The field is large, at approximately 800 yards long and 200 yards wide. We set up on the edge closest to power lines near a state road. There was also a roosting area that was in pine trees to our north about 100 yards away. The decoys were set up in the most northerly swath so there was no one behind us. This was the first hunt for the Wildfowl Ninja with his newly minted gratis license, and I wanted to make sure it was a safe one in an unfamiliar public managed dove field. In addition, based on initial scouting, the power lines were closest to this location and the prime roosting area nearby. The battery powered Mojo Dove was set up at the end of the swath, and into the end cut, so that it could be seen from as many angles as possible. Five sets of two decoys were set up in an “X” behind it with one feeding and the other acting as sentinel. A wind powered Air-Dove was set up at the other end of the ground decoy configuration.
The Wildfowl Ninja was to my right and slightly in front of me. He had the bucket; I had the scissor seat. He had his Weatherby SA-20 with Federal 8 shot game loads; I had my Benelli SBEII with Federal 7 ½ game loads. We greeted arriving hunters with a nod. One came over and, after exchanging pleasantries, he gave us some valuable intel on the dynamics of the field: the dove would fly east to west along a line from power lines to their roost; and north south from a prominent cedar on one side of the field, at mid field, to the aforementioned roosting spot. He told us we were in a good spot, which made me happy considering my dove hunting experience is limited, to say the least. He also gave some the Wildfowl Ninja some good hunting tips (though they also applied to me), which were: call “mark” when you see a bird and I will do the same, as this will allow for all to pick up on these evasive demons; and you do not need to be quiet, but you need to be still.
At 11:58, I turned on the Mojo (so to speak), and four minutes later, a dove came to land in our spread. I told the Ninja to take the shot and he had a good confident swing and a solid shot. He had no hesitation, but was admittedly, behind the bird. Others were buzzing by and considering our vantage, it was hard to track them until they were over us. The weedy stalks that were growing between the sunflowers hampered our view, but provided cover. I needed to increase my field of view, so I crushed these tough weeds in a circle, seven feet in all points on the compass. This helped considerably, as I was not used to having to pick up and track a bird that was quick on the wing and appeared out of nowhere. Shots heard in midfield affirmed the flight path tip we were given earlier.
|Should have gone a little darker Camo|
Then, a bird crossed thirty yards out at my 10 o’clock position. Standing, I mounted, shot, missed, shot again. As its wings folded, I tracked to where it cratered. This was my first dove (other than with a Falcon II wrist rocket as a teenager), and I was happy I did not wing him. We spent the next two hours talking, scanning the skies and trying to stay cool in the midday sun. Later that day, we continued on our way to a Delaware beach, a pilgrimage I have completed for the last 44 years.
|Bacon wrapped breast|