It’s been said that dove season is like preseason football. The real deal isn’t here yet, but it’ll hold us until it comes.
Others might say that deer fanatics give dove season short shrift.
Pretending to be a tree for six hours has its moments, but dove hunting makes you move. Spent in a cramped blind, the morning cool of fall seems wasted; better to soak in the air traipsing through a fallow field, watching the sky blush.
You can make noise and bring a dog, too, if you have the right kind. I don’t. My retriever Shiloh, about the shape of a giant Twinkie though not nearly as lean, accompanied us for one day of dove hunting before we learned that she’s not only the world’s most rotund hunting dog but also the most gun-shy.
The fun thing about dove hunting is that it didn’t matter. Instead of waiting in total silence for the world’s most skittish creature to show his torso to the scope, only to dart away with zombielike tenacity and a bullet in his rib cage before disappearing into that lost dimension of guitar picks, socks, and nail clippers, dove hunting lets you play with lower stakes.
For Texans north of San Antonio, today is opening day for dove season, which lasts until November. Like coyotes, whitewing doves have piggybacked on human expansion, rising from relative confinement in the borderlands to new breadths across the country with over 10 million flying in Texas alone. Unlike coyotes, they’re easily wrapped in bacon and skewered in a jalapeno half for the best poppers you’ve ever tasted.
Short shelf life, due to small size but also incredible taste, is the only disadvantage of this small game. You could freeze the little cutlets forever, but that would require superhuman restraint and a subhuman palate.
Despite being smaller targets, doves happen to be much easier to shoot and kill than deer. You can tell by the fifteen-bird bag limit established by the state. No amount of corn, cover, or doe pheromones will help you get fifteen deer in a day. That’s because a dove, when shot, actually falls instead of tapping into deep stores of adrenaline. A hit from a 16-gauge, much less a 12, will make a dove crumple like wet paper. Texas prohibits hunting game birds with anything larger than a 10-gauge, an unnecessary rule for those who actually want to eat what doves they shoot.
Cleaning doves is also a snap. It doesn’t take twenty minutes and a bucket. You just pull up the clavicle, twist off the breast, and wipe away the feathers with the skin, no tools or time required.
Texas requires a license to shoot just about anything besides hogs and coyotes, and the regular resident hunting license costs $25. Seniors and youths can buy one for just $7.
Texas also keeps nearly a million acres across the state for public hunting. There’s a certain magic to watching night become day over a Texas field, crunching through the dry grass and waiting for the first covey of the morning to rise cloudlike from the brush and dip through air before the shotgun picks out one small dove to fall.
If you’ve never tried it, make this the year that you do.
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