James A. Reed Dove Hunting yields great dove hunting

Contributed by Tyler Mahoney of Mahoney Outdoors. Tyler Mahoney is a Rockhurst University-educated outdoors fanatic who works to support his hunting and fishing habits. Read more of his next-generation insight at mahoneyoutdoors.com.

Every year, there is great anticipation for the dove hunt at James A. Reed Memorial Wildlife Area near Lee’s Summit, MO. The area touts great wheat and sunflowers on an annual basis. You can expect to see lines out the door of anxious hunters hoping to grab a spot in their favorite field.

During my scouting, field 63 was the place I wanted to be. There were literally hundreds of doves flying the day before hunting was allowed on September 4th. I showed up at 9:45am thinking I was getting there early enough. Boy was I wrong. The guy in front of picked the last available spot for 63, so I was forced to make a decision to go somewhere else. I chose field 57, which didn’t have as many sunflowers on the ground when I walked it previously.

Luckily, it usually doesn’t matter a whole lot where you hunt the first two days at Reed because there are birds everywhere. My girlfriend, Sami Thomas, and I made it out at 2pm on the 4th and picked our spot. Shooting was already going on all around us.

It wasn’t long before we got in on the action, too. We had several birds down before a short downpour of rain interrupted the hunt. There was a large system moving through the area and unfortunately we didn’t come too prepared with rain gear. The doves didn’t fly during the rain, but as soon as it stopped, they were out in full force.

By 5:30, I was up to 14 birds, and unfortunately ran into a string of bad luck trying to get my 15th. Sadly, I think I went through an entire box of shells to finally get the last one.

The cool thing about hunting James A. Reed is that hunters have a much better chance at taking a “banded” bird. They band many of the doves on annual basis right there at Reed. My 15th bird should have been my second of the day, but another hunter that was having a difficult time downing some birds shot at the same time I did. I elected to let him have it since I was so close to a limit. When he raised it up and shouted it was a banded bird, I slightly second guessed my decision. But he deserved it too!

My good friend, David Gray, who was lucky enough to grab a spot in field 63, also downed a banded bird as well. Both of ours were banded at Reed and born in 2018.

Many people think that the first two days at Reed are the only good days of the year before all the doves get blown out from the hunting pressure. They aren’t wrong, but it doesn’t hurt to check back in the area later in the season. Sometimes a new flock of birds arrives ahead of a cold front.

Five days later I returned to a different field after hearing reports of more birds and limited out even faster than I did the first day. There were also some large flocks of pigeons flying around, which are not protected by the Missouri Wildlife Code. You can shoot those too and they are just like a giant dove.

Keep in mind, you must check in ahead of time at the main office before going out to hunt any of the fields at Reed. When you are done hunting, you must turn in your card that records the number of doves you shot. You must also have a plug in your shotgun while hunting. Unfortunately, hunting isn’t allowed in the morning, but you can start at 1pm until sunset.

Good luck out there and be sure to check all hunting regulations to make sure you are good to go!

Kent Cartridge – Three New Loads for Dove Hunters

Dove hunting is a long-standing hunting tradition, especially in the south.

Kent® Cartridge has three new loads designed to specifically help dove hunters fill their limits this fall.

Our Diamond Dove™ loads feature heavier payloads and higher velocities than standard dove loads, making them a great choice for fast, high flying birds like White Wing doves, or late season birds.  Our Diamond Dove loads use proprietary Diamond Shot® technology with unmatched uniformity for consistently tight patterns and results in shot that is harder than standard lead, offering increased down range energy.

Our Steel Dove™ loads are the only load specifically designed for dove hunters who are required to use non-toxic shot. Available in both 12 and 20 gauge loads, with velocities up to 1400 fps for high performance, Steel Dove loads use specially blended clean burning powders for reduced felt recoil.

The new First Dove™ loads from Kent Cartridge offer value priced performance for high volume shooting situations. First Dove loads use clean burning powders with quality components to ensure consistent patterns and reliable functioning.

Diamond Dove

  • K12HD32 12 Gauge 2 ¾” 1 1/8 OZ 1250 F.P.S. #7.5
  • K12HVD32 12 Gauge 2 ¾” 1 1/8 OZ 1350 F.P.S. #7.5
  • K12HD36 12 Gauge 2 ¾” 1 ¼ OZ 1300 F.P.S. #7.5

Steel Dove 

  • K12SD28 12 Gauge 2 ¾” 1 OZ 1400 F.P.S. #6
  • K12SHD32 12 Gauge 2 ¾” 1 1/8 OZ 1350 F.P.S. #6
  • K20SD24 20 Gauge 2 ¾” 7/8 OZ 1400 F.P.S. #6

First Dove

  • K12D28 12 Gauge 2 ¾” 1 OZ 1300 F.P.S. #7.5
  • K20D24 20 Gauge 2 ¾” 7/8 OZ 1300 F.P.S. #7.5

Founded in 1997, Kent® Cartridge produces a line of high-quality shotshells for hunters and competitive shooters, including Bismuth Non-Toxic, Silversteel®, Tealsteel®, Fasteel®, Elite Target™, Diamond Dove™, Steel Dove™, First Dove™, Fast Lead®, Ultimate™ Turkey, ProTrial™ Field Blanks, Tungsten Matrix®, and Elite Bio-Fiber™.

For more information, visit the Kent Cartridge web site at www.kentgamebore.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/kentcartridge.

 

Hunter Preparations – Mixed Bag

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-Doves, Ducks and Deer are sure to be on hunters’ minds this week
-Missouri Hunters Smile and Say, “Whata’ We Hunting Today?”

We made it! The long dry spell for hunting is nearly over, and Show-Me State hunters once again will be savoring the piquant smell of burned gunpowder and the twang of bowstrings.  Some of you will have taken the hunting monkey off your back by pursuing squirrels or woodchucks for the past three months, but that’s cold comfort for those whose favorite pastimes involve winged game or deer.

Dove, snipe and rail seasons lead the way, opening September 1.  Waterfowl are next, with this year’s early teal season opening September 10.  Archery deer and turkey season launches Sept.  15, followed by rabbits, firearms turkey hunting and the early Canada goose season October 1.  One of my favorites, woodcock season, opens October 15 and duck season gets under way in the North Zone October 29.  Quail and pheasant seasons open November 1, and firearms deer season isn’t far behind.
Here are some random thoughts about this panoply of autumn excitement.

DOVES

I previously covered safety considerations and the abundance of hunting opportunities in hunting areas managed specifically for doves and dove hunters by the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC).  So here’s a tip to killing more doves: Go snake-eyed.  Nothing makes hitting a dove harder than not spotting the bird until it’s on top of you.  Because they can come from any compass point or elevation, our hunter natural tendency is to constantly swivel our head in all directions.  Don’t do it.  Motion registers in our brains when the image of an object moves across our retinas.  Putting your retina itself in motion by turning your head or cutting your eyes left, right, up and down only makes it harder to see the tiny motion of an approaching dove 200 yards out.

Instead, when waiting for a shot, pick a spot near the center of the horizon where doves are most likely to appear and settle your gaze there, as if you were a snake waiting to ambush its prey.  Don’t maintain focus on a particular spot.  Let your eyes drift apart, go a little walleyed.  Sitting with head and eyes still, you will be amazed at how easily you notice the movement of an incoming bird.  You won’t be able to see birds that are out of your peripheral vision, but that would be equally true if you were rubber-necking.

mixedbag2

TEAL

This works equally well for teal, which often fly low and fast and are on your decoys before you have time to blink, let alone raise a gun.  Speaking of teal and guns, these early migrating speedsters call for slightly different hardware and ammunition than full-sized ducks.  Teal – especially green wings – tend to fly in tight little flocks.  As a result, it’s easy to knock down more than one with a single shot.  I have killed as many as three with one trigger pull.  I was elated about that.  I did it deliberately and was over the moon at the result.  However, the intervening years have landed me in a place where I like to savor a hunt for hours, rather than end it in minutes.  Also, as you approach a limit, the possibility of killing more than one teal at a shot becomes a liability rather than an asset.

That’s why I now use a tighter choke during the early teal season than I do later in the year.  I use a full choke in my autoloader and choose an ancient Merkel side-by-side choked full and extra full or an Antonio Zoli over-under, choked full and modified.  Because maintaining adequate pattern density isn’t an issue with these chokes, I now use Number 4 steel instead of Number 6, as I once did.  The combination of tight choke and large shot size translates into many fewer birds crippled or lost.  If you hit a bird with a full choke and Number 4 shot, it’s going down for the count and the tight pattern allows you to target one bird out of a compact flock.

mixedbag3

BIG DUCKS

The regular waterfowl season is what I dream about the other nine months of the year.  To maximize my chances of getting some good hunts, I never miss a chance to apply for reservations at MDC’s 15 intensively managed wetland areas.  Throughout the season, I apply twice a week for reservations at Grand Pass, Eagle Bluffs or Otter Slough conservation areas through the Quick Draw system.  The first year I drew an astonishing four reservations.  For the past two years, I’ve come up with goose eggs.  Fortunately, I have friends who also use Quick Draw and since as many as four people can hunt on one QD reservation, I have gotten to hunt these areas every year.

The other opportunity I never miss is applying for a hunt under the regular waterfowl reservation system used to allocate hunting opportunities at MDC’s other 12 managed wetland areas.  MDC accepts applications for these areas from September 1 through 18.  Successful applicants receive notification October 1.  Finally, I take my chances at the slots allocated for hunters without reservations.  This involves arriving early at my chosen area and standing in the “Poor Line” with other reservation-less hunters in hopes of pulling a low number and getting to hunt.  When I strike out, I go to Plan B, driving to an open-hunting area with wetland habitat or taking my small boat to a sandbar on the Missouri River to hunt.

DEER

As Show-Me State deer hunters know, Missouri is in the early stages of a slow-moving epidemic.  Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a brain-wasting disease of deer, elk and moose caused by malformed proteins that are too primitive to even be called organisms.  That doesn’t prevent them from killing every deer they infect.

In an effort to slow the spread of the disease, MDC has instituted several measures to track the spread of the disease and reduce risk factors for spreading it.  In the past year, the number of counties where MDC is conducting CWD surveillance has increased to the point where it is no longer logistically feasible for the agency to cull deer for testing.  In order to continue surveillance, MDC is requiring hunters to submit for tissue sampling any deer taken in the 29-county CWD Management Zone during opening weekend of the November Portion of firearms deer season – November 12 and 13.  You can bring the whole deer or the head only, as long as you leave it attached to at least 6 inches of neck.
MDC will maintain 75 sampling stations in the 29 counties of the CWD Management Zone.  They will be open from 7:30 a.m. until 8 p.m.  November 12 and 13.  Their locations, including directions, are listed in the 2016 Missouri Fall Deer and Turkey Hunting Regulations booklet, which is available wherever hunting permits are sold or online.

I have already been fiddling with decoys and have inventoried my ammunition so I can fill any gaps during fall sales.  I even put on my muddy waders and climbed into the jet tub to pinpoint the source of last year’s wet crotch (I have a very patient wife).  The weather forecast shows high 70s for the dove opener, which means that teal will be filtering down from the Dakotas by September 10.  Lord, how I love this time of year!  At this point, it’s all promise.

Dove Hunting Opportunities Abound

  • Dove Hunters Should Have Trigger Itch in Missouri
  • Great Prospects – Add Considerations for Safety

dovehunting

A big plus for all dove hunters, the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) has a long-standing practice of managing hundreds of fields in statewide conservation areas for the benefit of doves and dove hunters.

Most of these fields are planted with sunflowers, but there are a good number of wheat, millet and buckwheat fields grown as well. Local weather determines when these fields get planted and mature. In good years, most are well along by mid-August, allowing managers to begin mowing a few rows each week. This puts seed on the ground and allows doves to establish the habit of visiting them daily. If that thought doesn’t make your trigger finger itch, you are not a dove hunter.

Good News First:

Hunters will find an abundance of doves flitting around the Show-Me State come September 1.

The Caveat:

Those of us who rely on public land for doving need to hunt defensively and be prepared to act like adults when others don’t.

The good news of proper feed and dense repopulation is the reason for the caveat mentioned earlier. MDC dove fields draw a great number of hunters. My experience is that about one in 10 human beings is an idiot (sometimes I think I’m way too optimistic about human nature, but that’s a different topic). So, if 50 people join you in one of the MDC managed dove fields, chances are good that a few of them will not be the sharpest tacks on the bulletin board.

Doves are Prolific Breeders.

The rosy season forecast is predicated on the fact that doves are the rabbits of the feathered tribe. A pair of mourning doves can raise six broods of two chicks each during the nesting season, which starts as early as March. With even modest nesting success, this results in droves of young, naïve doves for hunters to pursue. Nesting conditions have been good this year, so there’s no reason to believe we won’t have the usual, bumper crop of doves.

Hunter Awareness is Necessary.

Lack of sharpness can exhibit itself in several ways. Several years ago, a friend and I were in a dove field at Plowboy Bend CA near Jamestown well before sunrise on opening day to stake out good spots. The shooting was predictably spectacular. About 30 minutes into shooting hours, a doofus strolled in and walked down the field about 30 yards in front of all the shooters already there. That would have been okay, but when he got in front of me a dove flew over and he shot it. I was still okay with that – barely, but then he proved he was part of the bottom 10 percent by plunking his stool down and making as if to settle in.

Patience is Key.

This led me to point out that his chosen spot put him in the line of fire of at least three other hunters. I refrained from also pointing out that besides being an idiot, he was incredibly rude. Anyway, he got the point and moved on.

Later that morning my hunting partner took a pellet to the neck. The shooter was far enough away that the strike barely broke the skin, drawing a small trickle of blood. But the implication was clear. One of our fellow hunters had taken a shot far too close to the horizon and in the direction of another hunter. It was time to leave, and we did.

The good news is that I have had more trouble-free hunts on public land than problematic ones. Furthermore, safety problems are most common when Sept. 1 falls on a weekend, drawing maximum crowds to managed dove fields. I refuse to hunt public fields on Saturday or Sunday openers. It isn’t just that the safety concerns increase with the number of hunters. I simply hate crowds. It’s just not worth the hassle to me, let alone the risk.

Fortunately, his year’s opener is on Thursday, so the number of hunters converging on dove fields will be relatively sensible. That said, you still will find lots of hunters on MDC fields on opening day. Here are a few thoughts on making your public-land hunt as safe and pleasant as possible.

Avoid the Most Popular Areas.

I always hunt close to home, so I don’t know which CAs have the biggest crowds outside of central Missouri. My guess is that the ones listed on MDC’s dove information page are near the top for attendance. Instead, I suggest that you use MDC’s list of managed dove fields to identify one on a smaller CA near you that has managed fields. The web page has maps showing the location of these fields. Scout a few ahead of time, so you know where you would like to be on opening morning and can find your way there in the dark.

Arrive Early

Even the less popular areas can attract quite a few hunters. I suggest arriving at least an hour before shooting time. A headlamp is handy for alerting new arrivals to your location.

Set Ground Rules

Before the shooting starts, go around and introduce yourself to your hunting companions for the day. Gently point out safety risks to new arrivals who set up too close to others. Try to get everyone to agree not to take shows lower than 45 degrees above the horizon.

Dogs? Let Other Hunters Know

If you have a dog, share that with your group ahead of time and ask that no one ground-swat crippled doves. Offer the use of your dog to retrieve their cripples.

Wear Hunter Orange.

Doves react to motion, not color. Wearing a hunter-orange cap and vest isn’t going to hurt your hunting if you stand still and it certainly will alert other hunters to your location. Safety first.

Be the Adult.

Although it is tempting to read the riot act to unsafe hunters – that has always seemed dangerous to me, because idiots often also are belligerent and they have shotguns. Furthermore, it’s futile. You truly can’t fix stupid. So when things turn stupid, move or call it a day. Life is too short to waste time interacting with idiots.

Sign up for Managed Hunts at selected CAs. Dove hunting opportunities on these areas are allocated by daily drawings. You might not get in and if you do, you are assured that the number of hunters will be limited.

  • James A. Reed near Kansas City – Call 816-622-0900 for details.
  • Eagle Bluffs near Columbia – Call 573-815-7900.
  • Ten Mile Pond near East Prairie – Call 573-649-9491.
  • Otter Slough near Poplar Bluff – Call 573-290-5730.
  • Marais Temps Clair near St. Louis – Call 314-877-6014.

At its best, dove hunting in Missouri is among the most exciting hunting of all options, offering action-packed outdoor activity. Don’t let a few knuckleheads keep you from enjoying it.

Be smart, play it safe, and you’ll be fine.