Birds will soon be falling from the skies. Are you ready for the hunt?
Dove season, here in Texas, is only 6 weeks away. Followed closely by Goose and Duck seasons, there’s a sense of anticipation and excitement building among the hunters that aim for the sky. Since you’re reading this article, you are probably one of us. Is this going to be your first season? Or did you try last year with little to no success? Or have you never given fowl hunting any consideration? No matter what angle you’re approaching this dilemma from, there’s a few reasons you need to consider adding dove and duck season to your schedule. These are just 3 of those reasons.
1) New hunters shouldn’t limit themselves to just one hunting sport.
Don’t get discouraged. Every hunter has to start somewhere. And bird hunting, be it Dove, Turkey, Duck, or Goose can be some of the best practice you’ll ever get. Why? You can learn to hunt by going after that infamous 14 point buck that might require years of tracking and scouting only to (possibly) get one viable shot for your entire lifetime or you can learn to hunt setting up in a field, pond, or stream where you’ll get as much as 50 chances to get those trophy slabs for a well-earned dinner.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Deer hunting is incredible and will give you a burst of pride that you’ll remember for a lifetime. But I firmly believe in that old-time adage “don’t put all your eggs in one basket.”
Deer season is still a few months away. You’re going to need to scout your areas. Finding food sources and waterways that the deer are likely to approach are going to give you great advantages in the upcoming big-game seasons. One of the best ways to scout for those deer beds and crossings is to already be there. All deer need water. The areas they’re going to drink from, very frequently, are the areas you’re going to hunt for birds.
Here’s the big picture for you.
As a new hunter, you’ve got a lot of learning to do. The more you do, the more you learn. The more variety you provide in your experiences, the more diverse your skill set will become. You might discover a hunting sport you never considered is actually your favorite pastime. You might discover a particular talent that you’d never have found sticking to the same routine hunt after hunt. More importantly though, you’re providing yourself with a larger variety in your diet. Almost any animal you harvest is going to be a healthier option for your dinner plate than what you pick up at the store.
2) Have multiple locations to explore and stalk
As a new hunter, I was hesitant to invest large sums of money into private hunting land. My solution was to focus on public hunting land. It may be overhunted in some areas and definitely has more restrictions than most private hunting lands you’d ever find. More importantly, though, it was the most budget-friendly option I could find.
AJ and I don’t get to hunt nearly as often as we would like. When we do find time to get out into the wild fields of nature, we want to make as much use of our time as possible. That is how we developed this strategy. We still tweak the process every year. Minor changes come up multiple times each year and will still develop for years to come. The basic premise, however, has always stayed the same.
Dove season is the launching pad, if you will, for our hunting season. When we’re out in the fields watching for the flocks approaching our location, we’re also exploring the surrounding areas. We’ll frequently take our kayaks into the public lands to find clearings, creeks, and other hidden gems that are prone to catering to the wildlife that’s been driven out of the more heavily used areas. In the article, “Kayak Fishing: The Ultimate Adventure,” we talked about how kayaks allow us to get too deeply hidden, rarely used locations that are so much more peaceful and well preserved.
Don’t use the same scouting methods 500 other hunters in your area are using
These hidden waterways aren’t just for fishing. They can lead to incredible clearings ideal for deer, boar, or other game that will inevitably make their way to a secluded water source when they’re thirsty. These waterways can lead to backwater pools, eddies, and spillovers that will provide ideal duck beds. AJ and I have made many trips where we set up for a morning hunt in a location previously scouted. Come noontime, we pack up and float on down the river or creek we’ve been hunting.
Learn from our outdoors experiences
On one trip, in particular, we had a miserably unsuccessful duck hunt. A group of guys parked their boat on the other side of the cove we were hunting and decided to turn the hunting trip into a drinking contest rather than a hunt. In total, from 5 in the morning to noon (mandatory cease-fire for the land we were on) we saw 3 ducks. None of the 3 ever came close enough to take a shot.
Dejected, frustrated, and seriously questioning our abilities, AJ and I decided to take a hike up the creek. We didn’t have our kayaks with us on this trip so we drove a few miles around the adjoining lake and hiked a short distance up the creek. We discovered a clearing with hog, deer, and rabbit tracks literally everywhere. We found 3 abandoned deer beds that were recent enough to still have clean hoof tracks. Had we brought our kayaks with us, we could have made our way further up the creek to find the newer beds, but had to save that adventure for another day.
Why am I telling you this story? First of all, I want you to understand that no hunting trip is a failure. Every time you go out, you are going to learn. Every new experience is going to be a new tool for your arsenal. Second, a duck hunt doesn’t have to be just a duck hunt. When you’re finished hunting for the day, use a few more hours to scout more of the territory. You’re very likely to find resources for next month’s turkey or deer hunt. Or you could bring a pole or two with you and get a bit of cold weather fishing in.
Always be ready to change your plans and explore other options
The more areas we explore, the more opportunities we find for future hunting zones. We can fish all summer and find 20-30 locations that are possible hunting sites. Closer to hunting season, we get a little more in-depth with our explorations. Rather than watching the waterways, the banks, and the tree lines; we’ll venture a bit further into the forest. We’ll find those trails where the deer are trekking back into the depths of the forest and mark the locations on our onX map.
Even if we don’t get to use that location for this season’s hunts, we’ve got those options flagged and available to us for the future. Some spots we’ve found looked perfect for boar hunts, then we explored the area more closely and discovered it was better suited for squirrel hunting than boars. It wasn’t a total loss. Squirrel hunting is still a great pastime and helps improve your targeting skills. It just wasn’t the quest we expected to take.
3) Develop the confidence in yourself that will allow you to learn anything you set your mind to.
I was notoriously known for my insecurities and self-doubts in my younger years. There was a time in my life where I firmly believed I would never be able to do anything new without someone taking me by the hand and walking me through the process. Then I began exploring the outdoors. I started small. Hikes. Overnight camping. Sometimes I had a friend or two with me. Sometimes I was on my own. AJ progressed in much the same way. A lot of her outdoors adventures were at a much younger age than when I started, but the process was similar. Little things at first that inevitably built to bigger and better adventures.
Once we build up enough skills to be comfortable with bigger ideas, we started trying even more new adventures. Fishing, kayaking, and even hunting. Every time we went out to try something new we made mistakes. We learned from those mistakes. We improved our tactics for the next time out. The process has given us a stronger foundation that we ever would have had simply being taught one method for one form of hunt and sticking to that exclusively. The more we learn about what won’t work the more we understand how and why other processes will work.
Hunting isn’t simply a matter of going out into the forest and bagging an animal. Understanding what those animals are doing, why they are doing it, and how your presence is influencing those actions allows you to anticipate what will happen in different circumstances in the future. It is a true exemplification of the independence that forms from becoming an outdoors woman.
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. They will inevitably come no matter how hard you try. Be afraid of giving up on your quests because of those little mistakes. You’re creativity will carry you through the process of learning to hunt more than anything anyone can teach you if you just give yourself the freedom to experiment.