Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Dove Hunt on the Chesapeake Bay

 There is an awful lot of stuff going on - vertical feet of rain, hurricanes, tropical storms, an earthquake, and some pretty nasty water pollution headed this way from upstate New York and central Pennsylvania.  Work is pretty intense, teaching is time consuming, and all I can think about are the two things that are being neglected - little Hank and the outdoors.  But usually around that time, the weekend finally shows up.  I spent most of it hanging out with my little buddy, but also got invited to spend an afternoon in a field of sunflowers - just what the doctor ordered.

This alleged sunflower patch is at a farm that remains one of central Maryland's few well kept secrets. I had never even stepped foot on this legendary property, as the access is buttoned up tight - not a tough accomplishment when a farm is surrounded by 20' cliffs and open water on three sides.  It was first converted to farmland almost 400 years ago, and the "most recent" house and cottages were built about 100 years ago.


Bands of thick, heavy rain from this tropical storm or that hurricane - I've lost track - kept blowing through and we honestly didn't know if the weather would allow us to hunt. The wind and clouds hung around all afternoon, but the rain subsided, which got the doves moving in a hurry.   Shooting was fast and furious and my shells started disappearing at an alarming rate.  I started to question the wisdom of bringing my 20 gauge Browning for some of those long shots, instead of a heavier load in a 12 gauge.

Finally, I started connecting with doves.  First a single, then several more misses, then a double, then more misses, then a single, and so on.  I was set up in a precarious part of the field (against the cliff's woodline), so unfortunately I killed a few birds that sailed into the Bay.  I never even approached my daily limit (15), but I would have counted them towards it.


The funny thing about hunting small birds after a rainstorm is that all small birds are trying to feed after a rainstorm.  I was very pleased with our group of hunters for taking extreme caution in not shooting doves that were flying in flocks of blackbirds, mockingbirds, and sparrows. 

 

This was only the second hunt on this farm so far this season.  Unfortunately to the guys who regularly hunt there, the doves were already starting to adapt to the hunting pressure by flying higher, making repeated passes over open water, and just being overall hesitant.  I imagine their next hunt has been even more difficult. 

Overall, it was a really therapeutic afternoon, and the result was a few birds to put on the grill. It was great to get out and reconnect with the outdoors - something that's been difficult due to our recent slew of natural disasters.  I don't know when, if ever, I'll get a chance to go back out to this place, but I'm really glad I got to see it - and hunt it - firsthand.


 
Luckily the farm's osprey are more interested in fish than doves

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