Plus, if you're sending the dog on a blind, or even on marked birds that have fallen in the sagebrush, they often have a hard time finding them because scenting conditions are so poor.
So what did I do? Took my dogs dove hunting, of course. I knew at the outset it was going to be a low-percentages hunt, but I wanted to get the dogs, especially my male, the chance to start getting into the hunting season mindset, so I decided to hunt a stock tank on my local WMA and shoot "training" birds, only taking specific shots that would be good retrieves for the dogs.
That turned out to be a fair bit of chutzpah on my part...
My area's wheat crop was a total bust this year. My local WMA manager told me he didn't even bother discing and burning the food plots they plant to attract dove, so right there one of the main concentrators of dove on the areas I hunt is absent this year. That's not to say there aren't good numbers of dove still around. There are. But when there are 16,000-odd acres of native vegetation to feed on, figuring out a good spot from which to shoot a few can be a challenge.
But dove must drink, too, and one of the best (and one of my favorite) ways to shoot a limit around here is to set up on a stock tank or windmill in the evening. Usually by late August/early September we're dry as the proverbial bone and those creaking old Aermotors are dove magnets.
Unless of course, you get rain. Which we have. And unless we've had a spell of cool, cloudy weather that starts getting those dove thinking about leaving for warmer climes a bit sooner than normal. Which we have.
I've shot a lot of limits off this particular tank, and for what I wanted to do it was perfect: fairly short walk, good spot and thanks to all the rain it was about four times its normal size, big and deep enough to provide a good swim for the dogs.
Despite our recent cool weather, it's still getting pretty warm in the afternoons. Which makes this...
One of my absolute favorite parts of dove hunting. Being public land, you (thankfully) have to hoof it to reach most of the windmills on northwestern Oklahoma's WMAs, but when you get there you're rewarded with one of life's greatest simple pleasures: clear, cold water straight from the outlet pipe of a high plains windmill.