The official start of fall | By Michael Hook
For a good many South Carolinians the dove opener is the official start of fall. There’s football, BBQ and the first statewide hunting season of the year. It is a great way to get new folks involved in hunting and a wonderful way to spend an afternoon with old hunting buddies. Here are some tips to make your foray into the field a safe and successful one.
· Take plenty of water, wear sunscreen and a wide brimmed hat. It gets hot out in the field during September and there is little to no shade to protect you.
· Obey the field rules, whether on public or private fields you need to pay attention to the rules or you may not get asked back. Many public fields have specific regulations regarding number of shells you can take, times you can utilize the field and other items of interest. Many private fields have special rules as well including “gentlemanly” reductions in bag limits or even shotgun gauge restrictions.
· Put plenty of space between you and the next person on the field. Dove fields can get crowded and you want plenty margin of error when it comes to safety. You also want to cover the field effectively and keep the birds moving so spread out.
· Talk to your neighbors in the field. Dove hunting is a social hunt and it can be very beneficial if you are shouting out to fellow hunters the whereabouts of approaching doves or of low birds.
· Don’t shoot low birds. On a dove field one of the most dangerous thing you can do is to shoot at low birds. Call out low birds for your neighbors and don’t even think about pulling the trigger.
· Watch out for common ground doves. Common ground doves are a separate species and are not legal to kill. They are mostly seen in the outer coastal plain. Sometimes they are mistaken as juvenile mourning doves but they are smaller than mourning doves and have a squared off tail. They often fly low sometimes only cruising a few feet off the ground.
· Pack out your trash. As you are leaving the field take everything you brought with you. Candy wrappers, water bottles and all the spent shotgun shells you can find. Even if they aren’t yours.
· Finally thank your host for the enjoyable day in the field. A great deal of time, money and effort has gone into preparing a good dove field and a simple ‘thank you’ goes a long way at the end of the hunt.