The Eastern Shore Love for DovePosted on: August 2, 2018 By: FHMD
Drive through the Eastern Shore of Maryland during the hot summer months and you’ll see field after field loaded with bright, cheery sunflowers; their yellow petals popping against the red barns. It’s a picturesque scene for sure, but to the dove hunter, it’s even more picturesque when the sunflowers shrivel to brown.
Dove hunting is something my husband and I have enjoyed with friends at a nearby farm since we started dating. These days, our two little ones have joined us and it seems every year more and more of the next generation have made their way out to the dove field. In our farming town of Cordova in Talbot County, it’s some welcome family time before daddies start to disappear out in the combines for harvest and the kids head back to school.
The hunt’s laid-back nature fits nicely with lazy late summer weather, and differs dramatically from waterfowl or deer hunting. There’s no getting up before the sun, as hunting hours start at noon and go until sunset. There’s no layer-upon-layer of long johns – the coolest, most breathable camo works much better in this case. You don’t even have to be all that quiet. It’s a social hunt!
The most important piece of equipment you’ll need aside from your gun and a box of shells is, in fact, a bucket. Any ole stool or bucket will work just fine as you sit relatively still amongst the stalks and are able to get quick and stable shots. You’ll also want to have a modified or improved cylinder choke in your gun; one with a tighter pattern will ruin any meat you are able to hit on the small birds.
Our son Landon, who is 4 this year, loves to yell “dove!” as they fly in to rest upon the telephone wires. Mourning dove – one of the first birds to migrate for the fall – have a few tell-tale signs we tell him to look for, such as their flight patterns being straighter and less erratic than the average “tweety birds,” and they are slightly larger. There’s also a low whistling sound as they flap their wings.
Dove hunting also makes for a great, non-intimidating hunt to bring out a new or youth hunter, especially since hunters are free to talk and move around a bit. As you sit, you’ll of course want to reiterate the safe shooting lanes and gun safety until it’s time to shoot. While hitting the birds can be a little tricky, it’s still easier than other wing shooting, plus your guest will be able to feel their toes.
Landon doesn’t shoot out there yet, but taking in the sights, sounds, and excitement still makes it a fun day for him as well. There’s no doubt in my mind when we finally say it’s “the year” for him, it’ll be like Christmas in September and he’ll be confident and prepared knowing what to expect and how to treat his firearm. That being said, though they don’t shoot, when bringing our kids out, we make sure they have on headphones – we like BabyBanz brand for our kids – and some sunglasses for eye protection. We always wear eye and ear protection as well.
Though everyone does some impressive (and unimpressive) shooting, the real showman of the dove hunting show are the dogs: Setters, Black, Chocolate, Yellow, and even Silver Labs. Everyone brings their dog out to strut their stuff. While not necessary, it can be helpful to have a well-trained best friend to grab birds, especially for longer shots or where fields are still planted nearby. Make sure to bring your furry friend some water as it’s quite hot and hopefully they’ll be doing some running.
The dove are quick to breast off, which is useful when a pile is shot! A few hands make the work even faster, a few drizzles of BBQ are added, and a piece of mozzarella cheese and a pepper slice tucked in create a tasty “popper.” I like to think if Martha Stewart were to host a game feast, it would be during dove season for the simple ease of it all.
Ready to try? If you have some dove hunting experience, grab your bucket of choice and head over to one of Maryland’s public dove lands.
If not, try one of the fantastic local guide services to host you on your first dove hunt. Schrader’s Outdoors, LLC. in Bridgetown offers packages to make a weekend of it, with buffet lunches and rounds of sporting clays at their top-notch course. There’s also lodging available at their manor house. Harrison’s Outfitter Service down in St. Michaels has a great deal to make it a family affair, with kids under 14 hunting free and offering handicap accessible options. Quaker Neck Gun Club in Chestertown is another great option to check out, and has lodging available.
Of course, I’m rather biased to the Eastern Shore, but friends “over the bridge,” as we say, report back it’s just as fun over there if that trip lends better to your travel plans.
An afternoon dove hunt is always one of those effortless days that makes everyone smile. I do hope that you will come visit the shore to soak up some sun and try your first dove popper.
Be sure to refer to Maryland’s Migratory Game Bird Regulations for important information regarding dove hunting.
And don’t forget your bucket!
This post was written by Leslie Milby
Images courtesy of the author