I managed to get in a great little dove shoot last Saturday afternoon with Paul Bennett and Don Wainwright, both of Harundale.
"We've been gunning this farm for doves since we were kids tagging along with our fathers," Bennett said. The farm, near Lothian in southern Anne Arundel County, belonged to a friend of the men's late fathers.
"Both of our dads lived from bird season to bird season," Wainwright said. "They started off with doves in September, picked up on early ducks and woodcock over near Delaware, in " October, then added pheasants and geese in November and December with quail thrown in. I remember them being real crazy quail hunters right through the season's end, which I remember at one time as being around the first of March."
As the third wave of afternoon doves began to filter into the chopped cornfield, both men moved back to their favorite stands, and I remained glued to the shade of the big oak tree serving as a backrest for me.
The shooting that Saturday was simply incredible. For the most part we were gunning resident birds, but there were some flights mixed in that I suspected were migrants moving ahead of the cold front that slammed into Maryland the next morning.
I didn't waste much time pondering, though, because I didn't have time to spare from the dozens of shots I was taking.
I was using a 28-gauge side-by-side wearing 26-inch barrels and choked improved cylinder/modified and had the barrels hot on occasion from the fast repeat shooting.
I was using 3/4 -ounce loads of #8 shot that I had hand-loaded during one of last winter's snowy afternoons. The 28 has been a favorite bird choice of mine for two decades, but remains a relative unknown to many bird hunters. I like to describe it as shooting the 20-gauge with the recoil of the .410.
Bennett and Wainwright were using 20-gauge over-unders. Wainwright's Browning was equipped with choke tubes, and Bennett had opted to use his Winchester skeet gun. Neither men was a stranger to scattergunning, and seldom did either shoot when I didn't mark a dove down.
I'm not quite in their class, but managed to stay respectable by picking my shots. For the most part I kept my finger off the trigger when a dove darted into sight from behind and passed up any shot beyond 40 yards.
The early dove season, which kicked off Sept. 1, has been good for me. I've gunned favored spots in Carroll, Baltimore, Harford, Frederick and Howard counties, plus a couple of great shoots around Easton and Cambridge. But last Saturday was my first time in southern Maryland this fall.
Now that we are seeing cooler weather, more migrants will be filtering into the area. Look for great hunting through the early hunt's closure on Saturday.
Fish and crab hearings
The Department of Natural Resources is proposing a number of changes to next year's freshwater fishing regulations, including amendments to the designated Put-and-Take and Catch-and-Return Trout Fishing Areas, reductions in daily creel limits in some ponds and lakes plus changes to Potomac River bass regulations.
A public hearing is set for Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the E1 Conference Room of the Tawes State Office Building at 580 Taylor Ave. in Annapolis.
A public hearing concerning drastic changes to crabbing regulations aimed primarily at sportfishing and shoreline property owners will be held by the DNR tomorrow beginning at 7 p.m. at the Department of Agriculture's ground-floor conference room, Harry S. Truman Parkway, Annapolis.
Apply for deer permits now
Apply now for permits to hunt deer in the McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area in Montgomery County and Stoney Forest in Harford County during the Nov. 27-Dec. 11 deer firearms season.
Eight permits will be issued via random lottery for opening day at the Montgomery County site. For the application, call the Seneca District Wildlife Office at (301) 258-7308. Ten permits will be issued daily throughout the 13-day managed hunt at Stoney Forest. Call the Regional Service Center in Bel Air at (410) 836-4551 for details.