Wet Weather Tips for Dove Season Opener

If you haven’t noticed, it’s been raining here in Texomaland.

A lot in fact. As this was written yesterday, a noontime total of 1.98 inches had fallen at the Austin College Weather Station, bringing the August 2017 total to an amazing 16.93 inches.

And add up what fell in June and July and a summertime record of more than 25 inches has fallen this year.

“I sure don’t ever remember an August like this,” said local wingshooter Jim Lillis of Sherman, a retired Ducks Unlimited senior regional director with more than 50 dove seasons under his belt. “I remember some rain right before the season a few times that put some big puddles down on the ground and made things muddy, but never such a prolonged wet spell like the one that we’ve had this August.”

In fact, Lillis said that the three-acre pond behind his house has been continually running over its spillway for a two or three weeks and counting.

“I’ve had over 14 inches of rain at my house,” he said. “Yeah, water, mud and weeds as high as my truck, that’s definitely going to be the big story for dove hunters this season.”

That doesn’t mean that hunters should forget getting out though. It’s just that they’ll need to adjust their tactics when they do so.

“Field hunting in ag fields is going to be tough,” said Lillis. “If you can find a cornfield or two that has some waste grain, it does better with a lot of rain on it than wheat and milo do.”

Lillis said that waste wheat kernels, normally a hot commodity for local dove, is likely buried under mud and silt since wheat fields get harvested in the early summer months.

And milo, also a usual September dove hunting staple, is likely to be useless this fall since waste kernels from a farmer’s late summer harvest will quickly sprout or sour with abundant rainfall.

“And waterhole hunting is likely to be all but dead this fall,” said Lillis. “I’d hate to think that I was going to sit around a pond and hope for some success.”

What does that leave local hunters?

“The key this year is going to be native food resources,” said Lillis. “Things like croton, native sunflowers, certain grass and weed seeds like ragweed.”

The Sherman wingshooter suggests getting out and scouting for such spots this week, looking for doves sitting on power lines, barbed wire fences, and getting grit for their craws on gravel roads.

“They’re still here and they’re still going to eat,” said Lillis. “The key is to get out and look for any visible concentrations and flyways, then in either having or getting permission to hunt where they are going.”

Lillis said that once hunters find some birds to hunt, hunters might want to alter their shooting equipment.

“Since this season may be more of a pass shooting kind of year, I’d be sure that I have interchangeable chokes with me for my shotgun,” he said.

“If you’re finding birds flying by at longer distances, I’d opt for a tighter choke like a modified tube with #7 1/2 size shot. If you get lucky and find some tighter, up close shooting, then maybe an improved cylinder choke with #8 shot.

Lillis said that if the weather is cloudy, damp and cooler than normal next weekend, bear in mind that doves may fly off and on all day, not just at the usual early morning and late evening times that they do in normal years.

“Believe it or not, you can have some good shooting in this kind of weather,” he said. “Several years ago, I hunted a rainy, cool opener with my friend Phil Bellows over west of Gainesville. We actually got into some good shooting, found plenty of birds flying, and limited out.

“We were wet and nearly froze to death, but it was still memorable hunting.”