John's Journal...

The Mystery Dove Field – Why Birds Came There

Day 3: The Best Dove Shoot Ever

Editor’s Note: All hunters look forward to the opening of dove season each fall throughout the country, since dove season officially starts the year’s hunting season. I was hunting doves this past weekend on opening day of dove season, when a new/old friend, Keith Tate of Dora, Ala., invited me on a dove hunt. Tate’s family had hunted this property for about 100 years, and the only time I’d met Tate was as a youngster, hunting doves with his dad and granddad, when I interviewed them for my outdoor radio show 35-years ago.

Click for Larger ViewThirty-five years ago, the man on the phone, Ray Tate, Keith Tate’s Dad, said, “We’ve got plenty of doves at my place. They’re here every year, and everyone always gets their limits. If you’ll come and hunt with me, I’ll show you how to have a good dove hunt.” The first time I hunted with Ray Tate, his family and friends, I was worried about them baiting the doves, which is illegal. One of the rules on hunting doves over a field is that that field must fit in and be a part of normal accepted agricultural practices, which means you can’t do anything to attract doves that aren’t a part of your agricultural practices or that help you raise livestock on your land. Click for Larger ViewWhen I arrived at Ray Tate’s farm 35-years ago, I didn’t know what to expect. But I soon learned from Tate and his friends one of the best ways to have a legal dove hunt and still comply with the rules.

The first thing I spotted was a cornfield with a low fence all the way around it - not a high fence like you see in enclosures where deer are raised. This fence was made of what’s commonly called hog wire that’s most often used to fence-in hogs. When I asked Ray Tate why he fenced-off his cornfield, he answered that he wanted keep his hogs in the field. Amazed, I said, “You mean you have hogs in your corn?” Click for Larger ViewTate explained, “Of course. This way we can have a dove hunt and fatten the hogs.” Every year Ray Tate and/or one of his neighbors would plant a cornfield and fence it off with hog wire, and 2-3 weeks before a dove shoot, they’d turn hogs loose in the corn. The hogs would knock the corn stalks down and feed on the dried ears. Because hogs were messy eaters, when they ate the corn off the cobs, they left lots of grain on the ground. Since doves are opportunistic feeders, they didn’t know that the corn was meant for the hogs. Immediately the doves flocked-in to eat the corn the hogs had left. To get rid of these corn-stealing doves, Ray Tate and his neighbors had a dove shoot every year, and what a shoot it was. There were more doves coming to that corn patch than I’d ever seen anywhere before or since then. The hunt didn’t last more than 1 or 2 hours, before everyone had their limits of doves.

Click for Larger ViewAt that time, I had syndicated outdoor radio show and outdoor newspaper column. So, I interviewed Ray Tate, his father Noah Tate, some of the neighbors and Ray Tate’s little boy named Keith. I got great information from my interviews to do a week’s worth of radio programming, as well as some newspaper columns. I’d always remembered the dove shoot I went on 35-years ago and the great time I enjoyed afield with the Tate family. Was I ever surprised when I got a phone call about 3-weeks ago in August, 2011, and heard the man on the other line say, “You don’t remember me, I’m sure, but I know who you are.” Tomorrow, you’ll hear the rest of the story about the dove hunt that has lasted four lifetimes.

Tomorrow: A Four Generation Dove Hunt

Check back each day this week for more about "The Mystery Dove Field – Why Birds Came There "

Day 1: Why Doves Came to a Field that Had No Food
Day 2: Taking 15 Doves with 20 Shots for a $100 Reward
Day 3: The Best Dove Shoot Ever
Day 4: A Four Generation Dove Hunt
Day 5: Tips for Improving Your Dove Hunt This Year

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Entry 630, Day 3