To some a dove is a diabolical way to humble the wingshooter. All that is required are the 3 P’s: Patience, Persistence and Plenty of ammo. Here is everything else you need to know to plan a good dove hunt on Illinois public land.
Doves are one of the most widely distributed and abundant bird species in North America. Yearly harvests fluctuate due to liberal bag limits, habitat conditions and the vagaries of the fall migration.
Illinois is over 350 miles long from the Wisconsin border to the Ohio River. As a result the weather conditions can be significantly different from one public hunting area to another. Doves are very susceptible to weather, especially temperatures. Extended low temperatures will cause the birds to move south their wintering grounds.
The best shooting is during the first few weeks of the season. The first cold front usually sends the birds on their way followed by migrating birds from up north. Shooting often continues through the end of the second season.
Illinois has two dove seasons. The exact dates and length of each vary from year to year. However, they usually begin in early September and early November and extend for a few weeks.
Hunters in certain areas are required to get a free dove hunting permit for the first 5 days of the season.
Often holders of the permits will not appear on the days designated and a drawing is held before the hunt for unclaimed locations. Information about these drawings and license requirements is available the site superintendent at the location of the hunt. The phone numbers and addresses of all the public sites are contained in the Illinois Digest of Hunting and Trapping Regulations available free from IDNR offices and license vendor sites.
With backswept wings and long pointed tails, these little gray rockets have a cruising speed of 30 to 40 mph. They can reach 60 mph hour in short bursts. Their ability to bob and weave at the same time makes them a challenging target.
A little pre-season practice on the skeet, trap or sporting clays course will go a long way toward improving ones shooting skills. An inexpensive mechanical trap or hand held thrower and an open field can help. Try tossing clay birds to present targets coming toward the gun, crossing and doing things that the little gray rockets are likely to do.
Steve Schultz, a national shooting instructor, maintains that good dove hunters work on their shooting style. Things such as looking only at the head of the bird when aiming and employing the correct mounting of a shotgun are important.
One “trick of the trade” employed by Schultz is to back away from a mirror with an empty shotgun so as to make sure you will not hit the mirror with the gun. With weight evenly on both feet, slowly bring the gun up to your cheek and then into your shoulder. Check the mirror to see where your eye appears. If done correctly, you will be looking right down the barrel. Your eye should appear to be floating just above it.
Dove hunters are encouraged to use steel or other non-toxic shot in order to spare doves and other wildlife from potential lead poisoning. Number 6 or 7 steel shot works well with shotgun chokes one size more open than used for lead. Improved cylinder is a good idea. If using lead shot, number 9 shot is the most popular. Seven and one half or 8 can also be effective.
Usually individual shooting locations are determined by a drawing for stake locations. The hunter is required to remain within a short distance of his stake for safety. On days when the hunting pressure is less or when no stake requirement is in force, a hunter is wise to choose a location that places him within 40 yards of the dove flight path. Wind direction and structure on the ground influences flight paths.
It is wise to choose a location where you will not be shooting into the sun. Nothing spoils a shot like swinging into the sun just before you pull the trigger.
Once you select a location find concealment. Locations on the edge of grain fields or beneath a large tree with bare limbs are ideal. Doves like to land in such trees to survey the field. Once convinced there is no danger they drop down into the field to feed, or quench their thirst.
Make your location as comfortable as possible. Fidgeting only attracts attention. Early September in much of Illinois is hot weather time requiring plenty of water and sunscreen lotion.
In fall high turkey numbers provide the opportunity and hunters need only provide the preparation. Success is when opportunity meets preparation.
The changing seasons mean an anticipation of fall turkey hunting success throughout the entire country. Midwest turkey hunters have hunted spring turkeys with great success and look forward to fall birds.
Many of the tactics used during the spring season also work in fall. The birds are just as wary and frustrating. Hunters are quick to discover all hunting can be just as heart pounding.
There are a few more wrinkles to fall hunting. Turkey hunters should shoot their shotguns to make sure they are delivering the kind of pattern needed. It is not unusual for identical guns and ammunition combinations to throw different patterns.
One of the turkey patterning kits made by Birchwood Casey simplifies the job. It contains turkey head targets at which the hunter shoots. Once the turkey head is the center of the pattern, the hunter knows where his point of impact is in regard to the sight or scope of the gun.
Once the point of impact is determined, hunters can shoot shells with different pellet sizes, or from different manufacturers, to find the best load combination. Many companies make special turkey loads that have the right pellet weight combined with velocity needed to penetrate the vitals of a turkey. These loads deliver a pattern density that is superior and places more pellets in the vital zone of the turkey target.
If shooting with a bead sight, the hunter might want to make the sight more visible. Birchwood has touch‑up pins in white or fluorescent red. Once painted the sight is brighter and more visible in low light conditions.
The calls, box, slate, glass and diaphragms, will work well in the fall, as they did last spring. Turkeys still yelp, cluck, purr and gobble. The one addition is the young turkey’s “kee‑kee”. This is the sound made by young‑of‑the‑year birds that are lost and looking to regroup. You can produce this high pitched call with a diaphragm call or one of the aluminum calls.
Fall hunters begin by looking for birds where they found them last spring. The most difficult part of hunting turkeys in the fall is finding them. Food sources such as acorns, corn or soybeans are a lure of fall birds. During dry periods, water is a major attractant. The fall birds tend to roost in the same areas they use in the spring.
Drive back roads, check harvested fields and talk with local landowners. The best times to locate turkeys are in the early morning and early evening.
Hunters who traditionally use a decoy in the spring leave it home in the fall. The turkeys usually ignore them except during the spring mating season.
Once a flock of birds, usually a family group of hen and young‑ of‑the year, are found they are “rushed”. The flock scatters as each bird takes an “everyone for himself” approach. Once the action has quieted down, the birds begin to call to one another in an attempt to reassemble. These flocks are large and can contain as many as 40 birds.
There are two other types of flocks in the fall. Males group in the summer and stay together until the following spring. More rarely found are groups of barren hens. The male groups can range in size from 3 to 15 birds and the hen groups are small and more difficult to find.
Once adult hens begin with their assembly yelps, the hunter takes up a position and allows the woods to calm down. He then begins calling by using yelps and kee‑kees to let the scattered and confused birds know where to find him. As they begin to re‑assemble, the hunter can pick his quarry and concentrate on getting it into the range of his shotgun.
The fall season is usually an either‑sex hunt but one should still be sure of target identification. A safe and responsible hunter is sure of his target before aiming a gun at it. Adherence to safe gun handing skills is an utmost priority.
While hunting fall birds is different, it is usually more successful from the hunter’s point of view. With advance preparation fall turkey hunting is an excellent way to get a bird for the Thanksgiving table.
Hunters waiting for the waterfowl migration, upland hunters and those wanting to teach a person new to the sport of shooting, all find the hunting preserve a great hunting option.
Most hunting preserves cater to groups and individuals who want a quality hunting experience but do not have access to land or maybe have a physical disability. The hunting season begins early on preserves offering the hunter extended time in the field. The game and dogs can make or break a preserve hunt.
Some hunters may be waterfowlers. They may want to continue a hunt after a morning of hunting or, when ducks and geese are not flying.
Most hunters are people with hunting experience. Clubs usually have a clay target trap set up for shooting practice before taking to the field. It also gives the guide a chance to evaluate the skill level of the hunter and their safe handling of firearms.
Some hunters want to bring their own dogs. Clubs often encouraged hunters wanting to get some field experience for their canines. If the client wants to try hunting over other dogs or does not have his own, then the preserve usually has numerous dogs available.
Pointers, retrievers, setters and Brittany’s are popular dogs for the upland field hunting usually found in the preserve situation. Labrador Retrievers are popular in a pheasant hunting situation in that they are good under voice control.
A lot of dogs will point a pheasant and when it takes off they will chase the bird. They just do not know how to handle such a big bird. It is preferred that the dog pull out and go to the end of the field, then come back to cut off the bird. Finding such a dog can be difficult. A good pheasant dog should cover the field quickly and be able to stay put when the bird flushes. Some dogs point a quail but will not be bothered with a pheasant.
A good dog ranges 50 to 100 yards out from the hunters. On a preserve you do not need a field trial dog. Field Trial dogs range further out from the hunter or handler. Dog handlers train them to do just that. On a preserve the closer ranging dog is better for the physically challenged person who rides a 4-wheeler or hunters who ride a horse while hunting. The horse hunting is a carry over from the old southern plantation style of quail hunting.
The dog points the bird and the hunter dismounts, loads his gun and walks to the location before flushing the bird. Another variation is that the hunters ride in a horse drawn wagon until the dog finds the bird. Then the hunter gets down from the wagon, loads up and walks in to meet the dog and handler. The approach causes the bird to flush.
It is generally impossible to break a dog of hunting any further than he desires. You can break a dog from hunting too wide or make him come back. It takes a lot of training work, patience and is better to leave that to the experts. The hunting preserve then provides an opportunity to keep the dog in practice.
Sporting clays practice before coming to a preserve to hunt is a good idea. It offers the hunter a chance to practice shooting clay targets under simulated hunting conditions. It also helps the hunter to become more comfortable and familiar with the particular gun he is planning to use in the field.
Most hunters of upland game use 20 or 12 gauge shotguns. Some shooters like the 28 gauge on preserves. For pheasants, the recommendation is a number 6 shot size. For Quail and Chukar usually hunters prefer a 7 ½ or number 8 shot.
For the physically challenged hunter some preserves offer 4-wheelers or truck transportation to get into position. They are the only hunters allowed to hunt from a vehicle in this Illinois.
In other states it might be best to have the less physically fit person be a blocker at the end of the field to flush running birds into the air.
Many physically challenged hunters have a vehicle of their own. Regardless, preserves often have certain fields set aside for such hunters. They can drive them on roadways and move through the field on vehicles with no problems.
Physically challenged hunters can be either a driver or a blocker depending upon their desires. The hunter just follows the handler and the dogs lead.
Many clubs also have at least one father/son or mother/daughter hunt each year. These are a great bonding experience.
A preserve hunt might make a great birthday or holiday present.
When evaluating land for deer hunting, here are some questions you might ask yourself.
Does it present habitat that attracts and holds deer? Are there ample food, shelter and water sources present?
If deer are present, where do they travel and why? In the morning deer travel toward bedding areas and toward feeding areas in the evening.
If water is present close to the bedding areas they will not move from them during the day. If not they will get up occasionally and move to creeks, puddles, ponds and rivers for a drink. Learn what they are doing.
Regardless of the time of day, deer leave well-worn trails in the areas they frequent. Study those tracks and learn their patterns of behavior.
If you know why deer do what they do, it improves chances of being able to be in a position for that important shot opportunity.
Trout in the wild prefer water around 50-degrees with a rocky bottom. Missouri springs emanating in the limestone of the Ozark Mountains provide a very suitable habitat for trout. On rivers with changing water levels the fish survive through adaptation. As the water level lowers and the current decreases, they move toward the middle or anywhere with deeper, cooler water. When the current is fast, they will move to the edge of the river. They need to move to structure to conserve energy and preserve calories.
Trout with their tiny scales are able to live in moving water. This coupled with their slime coat allows them to go nose into the current expending less energy than other fish.
The major other factor that affects trout fishing is food. The trout’s eyes are located mid-range on their heads allowing them to feed either up or down from their position. Ninety percent of their food crawls on the bottom of the river. Much of it is immature insects and aquatic creatures. As they grow and mature, the creatures move up in the water column eventually reaching the surface.
The basic casting procedure for all river run trout fishing is to keep your wrist stiff and below your shoulder. Learn to relax and not force your cast. Hold the rod with the reel down and your thumb on the top of the rod. You are casting the line and not the lure. Using the clock face as a reference, keep your rod position between 10 and 2 o’clock. Avoid the urge to cast hard in the forward position and drop you rod tip in an effort to gain distance.
Fly fishing anglers need to adjust they type of presentation they throw to the water level in which the trout are fishing at the moment.
If on the bottom, the best fly is one that is darker in color such as black or brown. They should be small in size and weighted to keep it off the bottom a few inches. In the mid-range he can turn to Wooly bugger in a size 10 that is black, tan, and olive or even occasionally white. This is probably the easiest level to master trout fishing with flys. On the surface, the trout will take dry flys sizes 10 to 20, but are difficult to catch. Trout eating on this level slurp down the fly gently as they approach without notification of their presence.
River run fly casters need to master the process of “mending.” Flys are cast up-stream and allowed to drift down. Whether using a float or not, there is a tendency for the line to move down stream faster than the fly. This pulls the fly up to a level higher than intended. Point the tip of the rod toward the fly with a little slack. Rotate your wrist in a small looping action which causes the slack in the line to land upstream from the fly. This is mending.
As with anything self-taught, fly fishing without previous instruction can lead to errors. If you have not already done so it is advisable to attend a fly fishing school or hire a competent fly fishing guide. There is a great deal of knowledge gleaned by doing so. One learns the science of studying the food sources, tying knots, casting procedures and the tackle itself.
Summer sunshine in August is often a sure sign that the fish will not bite during the day. Most anglers switch to night fishing or at least early morning and late evening. That is not the whole story.
If you adapt your program you might catch some nice fish.
In southern Missouri and Illinois, fishing 90-degree water calls for a change of tactic. These southern lakes and ponds contain smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, white bass, walleye, crappie, bluegill and some assorted sunfish.
I recently was introduced to a new pattern for these suspended cats.
Lakes and rivers experience a thermocline effect in the water during the hot summer months. The water below that level lacks adequate oxygen for most species of fish. As a result most fish suspend above the thermocline which is usually at a depth of about 20-feet.
The thermocline is a band of water in which the temperature is 5- to 10-degrees cooler than the water above. Below this band the water is even cooler. The fish will be in the water above the thermocline all summer but tend to hang close to it.
Catfish are usually at about 20-foot depth and with other species above them. They relate to any structure at those depths. For instance humps and sunken islands attract catfish. These fish are active in hot weather contrary to popular belief.
The shad in a lake will be in the top section of the water column driven there by white bass. Seagulls fly over the shad breaking the surface. It is the presence of the birds that alerts fishermen to the presence of potential action. Below the white bass is where the catfish lurk.
All the traditional catfish baits and lures will work in August just as they do the year around. Channel catfish will take almost anything but the blues and flatheads prefer live bait such as a sunfish or shad. It is important to place the bait/lure at the right depth. The slip bobber rig is a good choice to keep the bait off the bottom. In the case of crankbaits one can count down to a desired depth before retrieving the lure. A deep diving crankbait trolled at 2-miles per hour should run at about 18-feet down.
Crankbaits in shad imitation shapes and colors work in clear water. In rivers work the slack water behind structure as well as hollowed out holes in the bottom. There is more current above them and less down deep in the hole. In river situations you probably will have to travel more to find schools of fish.
As for color in the use of crankbaits adjust according to water clarity. Murky water calls for orange, chartreuse or yellow fire tiger baits. In clear water you can use blue or the more natural colors including brown and black.
Recently a computer program has entered the field of competitive fishing. It promises to be great for anglers, tournament officials, their friends and family as well as provide marine information for fisheries officials and increase survival rates of the fish.
Waiting for the results of a fishing tournament can be about as exciting as watching paint dry. Take it from one who has spent thousands of hours doing just that to get story material or in response to a magazine assignment. Sure it can be fun renewing old acquaintances but sometimes one has to cover several tournaments in a day or has a deadline and editors wanting material right now.
In the traditional tournament the anglers bring their catch of the day to a weigh-in and then they tally the totals to decide the winners. The officials announce the winners. All this takes a lot of time especially with large entry fields. Unfortunately often the crowd goes home and some fish die before the end of the festivities.
Mike Christopher of Dallas, TX points out that the main purpose of fishing tournaments comes in 4 aspects. The primary purpose is a protection of the resource both during the tournament and by supplying data to fisheries biologists to aid in management of the fishery. Secondly is the promotion of fishing ethics while maintaining the third segment safety on the water. And of course it is promote fun in fishing competition.
Christopher provides technical support in the use of iANGLER. The program is available on either the App Store or Google Apps.
iANGLER consists of two components. The web portal handles all aspects of the management of a tournament. These consist of things such as promotion, assignment of crew members, scoring, weather and a live leaderboard. The mobile application which is available to participants and remote viewers handles such aspects of a tournament as registration, logging successful catches, weather updates and the live leaderboard.
During a tournament the participants use the mobile app to photograph their catch and record basic information while still on the water. The image record immediately goes to the web portal. The tournament director reviews it if there is an internet connection the transmission takes seconds. If a digital camera is used the transmission is made later via the chip from the camera.
Once a catch record scoring is completed it is posted to the live leaderboard. If a catch is rejected the angler is notified immediately by email. For those viewing the leaderboard either by cellphone on the water or with a laptop it is possible to hole the cursor on a particular creel and see a thumbnail image of the individual fish. The tournament audience is able to monitor the angler progress on the leaderboard.
Once the contest is completed it is possible to finalize the results very quickly.
In addition to quickly determining the winners of the event, this system allows the quick release of fish within seconds. This goes a long way in saving fish lives.
Fishery biologists like the system as it opens up data for them to assess fish dynamics and habitat needs. All events fitted into the program have the identifying information of the angler removed before submitting the data to fisheries managers.
Tournament angling has long been involved in the digital age but this system is an advancement of the involvement. For more information about this program for your next tournament check out their website at http://www.ianglertournament.com.