It happened again the other day, just like it does every summer at this point.
And that’s the arrival of the year’s first fall hunting catalogs in the mailbox, this time such offerings being the Archery catalog from Cabela’s and the waterfowling catalog from Mack’s Prairie Wings.
Something tells me that the local deliveryman is going to be making a visit or two to my front door step in the very near future.
After all, a wingshooter can’t have enough decoys, duck calls, or camouflage, now can he?
In the meantime, the arrival of late July on the calendar means that it’s time to start seriously thinking about upcoming fall wingshooting seasons.
And more specifically, it’s time to actually start getting ready for approaching dove and early teal seasons since September isn’t really all that far away now.
What should a serious wingshooter be doing over the next several weeks? For the answer to that question, I turned to local guides Dakota Stowers and Clint Johnson.
“This time of year, the best thing that you can do to become a successful dove hunter in September is to practice your shooting skills,” said Stowers, who took over the Kent Outdoors hunting operation earlier this year after the untimely death of founder J.J. Kent.
“Go to a local outdoors store and purchase a few boxes of shotgun shells and some clay pigeons and get out for some shooting practice,” he added. “Doing so will help ensure that you become pretty good at hitting your targets again after the long layoff of the past several months.”
But don’t just practice the easy shots says Stowers since dove and teal rarely provide local hunters with too many of the so-called cream puff shots.
“Dove and teal fly really fast and erratically, so you want to use this time over the next few weeks to work on the easy and the not so easy shots,” he said.
If shooting practice is one way to start getting ready for upcoming dove and early teal seasons, then another way is to actually start scouting chores over the next several weeks.
“Once August 1st hits on the calendar, it’s going to quickly be time to start getting out and scouting for dove and really start trying to figure out where they want to be (this year),” said Stowers. “Look for corn, milo, and wheat fields, and once you find them, you will probably have found some dove that are working them.”
As the late July heat begins to build across the area, Clint Johnson, a three time Texas state duck calling champion and a guide with Bullzeye Outfitters, agrees with that idea.
“You’ll want to look for milo, corn, or sunflower fields,” said Johnson. “Personally, I like milo fields the best, they are my personal favorite in terms of finding a good place to hunt dove.”
Unless he can find a good watering hole, that is.
“For dove, I really like finding watering holes that are somewhere in between the bird’s food resources and their roosting spots,” said Johnson. “That’s typically where they’ll stop for a drink of water is somewhere in between those two spots.”
In his years of dove hunting, Johnson said that he doesn’t think that the size of most local watering holes matters to the dove as much as what actually surrounds that body of water.
Specifically, Johnson likes to find a pond that offers something like a snag or a fence for the birds to land on and perch, a spot that they can use to size up the watering hole.
And ditto for some bare ground at the water’s edge so that the birds feel safe in landing and stopping by for a quick drink of H2O.
While the September 1st starting dates of dove season are barely more than 40 days away for hunters on both sides of the Red River, the September 9-24 early teal seasons in Texas and Oklahoma are just a little bit farther down the road.
Stowers said that because of that, he’ll wait another few weeks before he really begins to take a closer look at favored teal hunting spots.
“Come the last week of August to around September first, that’s when I’ll really start looking for teal,” said Stowers. “They will really start to show up in this area around that first week of September.
“Once you start seeing where the teal want to be on a water body in the area, then you’ll begin to get an idea of where you need to be set up on opening day.”
Johnson agrees: “For early teal, it’s just like with any other form of duck hunting, you want to find the food and then you want to find the resting spots that they’ll use,” he said. “Find those two things and you’ll find out where they want to be, even in September.”
The bottom line here is that as summer begins to wind down, serious wingshooters will begin to wind up and start getting ready for the dove and early teal seasons that September will bring.
So invest some time now in shooting practice, followed by the start of scouting chores a few more weeks down the road.
Do so and you’ll have a leg up on others in the area, hopefully getting off to a successful start as both dove and teal rocket by your blind in a few weeks.
With any luck, the only thing you’ll have left to do then is to figure out what favored recipe you’re going to use to cook up that limit of doves and/or teal.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a couple of catalogs to go peruse - hunting season is just around the corner, you know.