"Did you fellows bring along your shotguns like I suggested?" Matt Johnson asked as we bounced around the whitecapped Chesapeake last Saturday morning.
Dick Bradley, Dave Nelson, Johnson and I had been blown off the bay by brisk winds that made fishing for striped bass nearly impossible the previous Saturday. With no alternate plans, the day had been a bust.
That's why Johnson had suggested that if the weatherman predicted even a hint of wind on our next Saturday on the bay, he'd have some dove hunting lined up as insurance against boredom. That's how I managed to tie into the best dove hunt of the early fall season.
Dove hunting has been a disappointment for many areas of the state thanks to early and widespread corn-harvesting operations that have prevented huntable concentrations of birds. The only spots that I know of that have sported traditionally great shooting have been fields planted with sunflowers.
After an early lunch, the four of us squeezed guns, ammo, folding stools and ourselves into Johnson's van and headed for a harvested field in the area of Davidsonville.
The owner of the property assured us that he had a steady stream of doves going in and out of the field we intended on hunting. Still, I had been disappointed too many times since the Sept. 1 start to be overly optimistic about our chances, even when a couple of dozen ground feeders flushed as we picked our shooting stands.
I was shoving the final trap load of #8s into the magazine of my Remington 11-87 autoloader when Nelson took two shots. The flight of four doves headed straight for Bradley, who missed with his first shot but found success on the second pull of the trigger.
While I played spectator, six of the birds streaked in behind me and were out of range in the blink of an eye. Off to my left, Johnson's 12-gauge over-under boomed once and I saw a dove drop. Out of the right corner of my eye I caught a movement and without thinking about it found my autoloader ejecting a spent Winchester hull and a bird falling off the end of the barrel. I barely had time to mark the bird before three more doves buzzed me from the right. Two escaped.
The shooting was almost nonstop for the two hours or so it took the four of us to individually limit out. The early season continues through Oct. 21.
Smithsonian deer hunt
The Department of Natural Resources will conduct a managed antlerless deer hunt at the Smithsonian Environment Research Center in Edgewater Nov. 25 through Dec. 9. Hunters will be limited to shotguns firing rifled slugs and will be required to hunt out of tree stands.
A zone has been set aside for mobility-impaired hunters who have a permit to hunt from their vehicles. Hunters participating in the hunt are limited to two antlerless deer per season, but they will not count against the regular-season limits. Each day three hunters will be selected to take one antlerless and one either-sex deer.
The hunt will be limited to 14 hunters each weekday and 22 on the weekends. To apply for a lottery-drawn permit, send a 3x5 card listing your full name, address, day and evening phone, current hunting license number, hunter safety certificate number and what five days you would like (or state any day), by Oct. 13 to DNR Wildlife Div. Office, 5625 Myrtle Grove Road, La Plata, Md. 20646. Each application must be accompanied by a stamped, self-addressed envelope.