Recent Pages: The Guns of Autumn

The Guns of Autumn

posted Wednesday, August 29, 2012 at 2:39 PM by Frank Jezioro

By Frank Jezioro – Director, West Virginia Division of Natural Resources

I don’t know why, but the sun of September seems much hotter to me than the sun of July.

Like several other hunters sitting around the field, I was sipping on a bottle of water while keeping a watchful eye on the clear, bright sky and my watch.There was a slight breeze stirring the leaves of the locust tree that I was sitting under as the time ticked by.An occasional dove flew the length of the field as if surveying the situation for possible shooters, knowing all the while that the official shooting hour had not arrived.

The Guns of AutumnThis particular field was located at the DNR’s Hillcrest Wildlife Management Area in the Northern Panhandle.This is one of the areas managed specifically to provide dove shooting possibilities.I say “shooting “possibilities rather than “hunting” as, when you are after doves, you normally sit on one spot and pass shoot doves that travel in and out of a feeding area.

Like any day that we can be in the outdoors, it was a great chance to reflect on hunts and experiences of past years.I was just kicking back and enjoying the day when I heard the first shot from the other end of the field.I glanced at my watch and realized that the magic hour of noon had arrived.

After that first shot, I heard three more in quick succession.One single shot normally means a dead dove and three quick ones usually mean a miss and birds coming your way.I was watching the sky intently when I spotted four gray rockets coming my way out in the center of the field.When they were about 30 yards from me, they banked sharply and came right at me.

On these head-on shots, the trick is to mount your gun quickly, come up on the bird from underneath, keep the gun moving until you cover the bird and pull the trigger.I remembered all of this as I swung the 20 gauge Browning O/U.As soon as the barrels covered the dove I pulled the trigger and saw the bird fold and hit the ground not five yards from me.This was the first bird of the year.

As I picked up the bird, I was aware of shots ringing out from all corners of the field.From that time until around 6 p.m., there was constant action and shooting.The birds came in singles, triples and too many to count.Some were hit and many were missed but it was a good afternoon of shooting that resulted in the makings of a great wild game meal for the grill.

Dove Hunting Tips

Saturday, September 1, will usher in the beginning of the year’s hunting season.Dove shooters are sprinkled across the state.Good shooting occurs in the major river valleys as well as any of the areas where crops are produced.Corn, wheat, oats and any small grain plant draws doves.If hunting in areas with little crop land, look to the wild plants such as ragweed and foxtail. The other requirement is water.So when you find a cut field that runs close to a water source, you are in dove shooting country.Popular state-run areas are McClintic WMA, Hillcrest WMA, Pruntytown WMA and Green Bottom WMA.

The Guns of AutumnDove fields are also great places to bring youngsters to learn safe gun handling and safe shooting practices.They also produce a lot of action which you must have to hold the interest of a youngster.All kids like to shoot and the national average on shooting doves is about six or seven shots per dove put in the game bag.It has been documented many times that there will be more shots fired on the opening day of the dove season than will be fired the rest of the small game season combined.

If you can’t make it to one of the wildlife management areas that have been planted for some dove shooting, then look around closer to home.With all the gas drilling and pipeline work in recent years, there has been a great amount of land reclaimed.When the land is reclaimed, there is usually a layer of straw covering the disturbed earth.Doves will search out these reclaimed areas as they walk around pecking on the seeds left in the straw.

As far as the actual shooting any light load in any gauge will work.Fine shot, like 7 1/2, 8 or 9 will work fine.Improved cylinder or modified choke will work.Since you are continuously looking at the sky, be sure to wear safety shooting glasses to protect you from a wayward shot across the field.Likewise for a pair of ear protectors since you will shoot many shots at this one sitting area. Be safe, take a child, take a lot of shells and water as it will undoubtedly be hot!

West Virginia’s 2012 dove hunting season is divided into three splits: September 1 to October 6; October 22 to November 10, and December 24 to January 5 (2013). Visit for more information about the fall hunting seasons for dove and other species.

Frank Jezioro
A great story frank, but I sure would like for you to tell us why it is OK for hunters to run dogs all over private property, barking all night long and disturbing the peace. I have been keep up for hours because of this nonsense. Don't we citizens have rights here in West Virginia? And Frank every time I talk with a bear hunter with dogs he tells me how his dogs have been injured or killed. Isn't that cruelty to animals Frank? And these same hunters tell me how when they do kill a bear it will have several different caliber slugs and arrows in its body that often is crippled with infected and infested wounds. Frank, isn't this also cruelty to animals. And Frank they also tell me about the cubs their dogs have killed in the summer. I thought this was illegal and also cruel. Thanks Frank. Looking forward to your response Joel Rosenthal Point of View Farm Inc. Hiillsboro, WV 304 653 4766
posted on Friday, September 7, 2012 at 1:15 PM by joel Rosenthal
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