Joel Reichenberger: Dove hunting as good as it gets

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Joel Reichenberger

Steamboat Pilot & Today sports reporter and photographer Joel Reichenberger can be reached at 871-4253 or jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com.

Find more columns by Joel here.

It's impossible to mistake the feeling of fall. I first felt it last week, walking downtown one evening after the sun had set.

That crisp feeling is hard to put a finger on, but for many it serves as a green light for football season.

It means football to me, but something else as well. It took me, with one whiff, to turtledove season.

Dove hunting season opened Sept. 1 across the region. It opened in Colorado and it opened in Kansas, where I've hunted doves as long as I've been able to haul a shotgun.

Dove hunting is awesome. When done well, it's about as good as shooting shotguns and hunting can be.

Pheasant hunting requires long hikes through cold fields. Deer hunting requires hours in a cold tree stand, and duck hunting requires equal amounts of patience, but with an alarm that goes off before the sun even has thought of coming up.

Not dove hunting. We would go to our spots with a fresh box of shells, flip a bucket over and have a seat, usually after dinner. It didn't ever take long for the excitement to show up, especially if you got a prime spot along a popular flight path.

The doves fly right to you when things are at their best. They come in waves, two or three or five at a time, and - pop, pop, pop - that's about all there is to it. The hardest part can be keeping your gun loaded, and the only big hikes required are out into the field to pick up the recently acquired dinner.

That's my kind of hunting. It's like shooting clay pigeons, but a little better with the added element of tracking real birds.

My dad reported to me that our best spot - a field, farmed by a relative, dubbed "The Harris Place" - dried up. In the good ol' days, by some miracle it sat along the turtledove version of Lincoln Avenue. The doves had to fly over that field to get anywhere they wanted to go.

It was no secret. Orange hats poked from every patch of grass, and shotguns stuck out from behind nearly every tree when opening day rolled around. There always seemed to be enough shooting for everyone.

It almost seemed unfair, but I'm glad it took the doves my entire adolescence to figure out the error in the plan.

The reports from home are in, and while no spot has equaled the yield of The Harris Place, the small pond 800 yards behind my parents' house did provide plenty of shooting and a dozen birds in about an hour's work.

I welcome the fall chill and football season - the NFL finally gets in high gear today, and the Broncos kick off tomorrow. I wish I had a crack at a few turtledoves, though.

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