Heavy ‘social drinkers’ sometimes refer to New Year’s Eve as “amateur night.”
This condescending attitude is also prevalent in rabid devotees of specific outdoor pursuits in essentially every adventure with rod and gun.
The initial opener for pheasants and ducks is akin to a youth hunt: Let the wannabes and poseurs have their day in the sun to add field cred to self-identity as a waterfowler or upland game hunter.
Serious dove hunters hold this snobbishness much closer to their blaze orange hunting vests.
The REAL action doesn’t start until autumn’s official arrival pushes migrating mourning doves south from northern nesting areas. Waves of these spectacular tasting grey winged rockets start showing up in southern Wisconsin the day after a major cold front blows through the north country.
It takes the birds a day or two to find sunflower, sorghum, winter wheat and Canadian thistles to feed on.
The DNR plants lure crops to attract these birds at 19 publig hunting grounds in Rock, Dane and Green Counties.
Doves are wary of ground-lurking predators.
They always spend time on power lines or dead tree branches before swooping into a field to feed.
They find sunflower fields with few weeds between the rows most attractive.
On opening day 22 acres of sunflowers located in four fields of Dane County’s Brooklyn Wildlife Area were in excellent condition, according to DNR wildlife manager Taylor Finger.
“Fields in Rock and Dane counties get the heaviest hunting pressure the first couple weeks of the season,” Finger said. “After that parking lots near the PHGs are either vacant or have just one or two vehicles.”
Folks who own these pickup trucks and SUVs will be cursing when they read this column.
They are the dove shooting equivalent of cats that got the canary. If you see a sentinel dove or two in close proximity to a sunflower field and only a minor indication of humanity you’re likely to realize a true field day.
A few hunters in a field actually increase hunter success because they keep the birds moving.
A dozen hunters covering a five acre field is close to an ideal number.
Of course, the crescendo of a trap shoot will push the birds away in just a day or two. Time for a road trip, looking for sentinels on the wires.
Dove hunters who put in the effort will be rewarded with a few days of great shooting between now and mid-October when late migrants show up, perhaps missing a couple toes due to frostbite.
When properly prepared all gamebirds is a party for the taste buds. A halved dove breast wrapped in bacon with a jalapeno pepper and wedge of havarti cheese toothpicked in the middle on the grill never fails to generate a Pavlovian response any bull Mastiff would be proud of.
Ted Peck, a certified merchant marine captain, is an outdoors columnist for The Gazette. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org