Check­ing your list helps en­sure happy hunt­ing

Ed­u­ca­tion and proper equip­ment are keys to an en­joy­able ex­pe­ri­ence.

Austin American-Statesman Sunday - - SPORTS -

More than 20 years ago — when my son was just start­ing his col­lege ca­reer and I was still an­gry at ducks — the two of us packed up for a teal hunt on the prairies west of Hous­ton.

We were in a line of trucks leav­ing the field when traf­fic came to a halt and be­gan mov­ing up one ve­hi­cle at a time. I stepped out of the truck to as­sess the block­age and fig­ured out there were sev­eral fed­eral war­dens check­ing plugs and steel shot and lim­its for the hunters ex­it­ing the area.

When I got back into the truck and started mov­ing for­ward again, my son was star­ing straight through the front win­dow, kind of pale and sweaty. “Dad, I didn’t get my hunter ed­u­ca­tion class done the way you told me,” he said.

Al­ways the sup­port­ive dad, I could say only some­thing to the ef­fect of: “OK, see you when

you get out. Let us know what hap­pens.” I re­ally did expect him to get some kind of ci­ta­tion, but since I’d been pes­ter­ing him to get cer­ti­fied and thought he had, I didn’t have much sym­pa­thy for the check he was go­ing to have to write.

When we got to the road­block, the war­dens asked for our li­cense, checked our birds to see that they were sep­a­rated and sent us on our way. Daniel got back into the truck and let out a breath that could have choked a horse.

“I can’t believe they didn’t check that,” he said. I couldn’t ei­ther, but it was a good teach­ing mo­ment, and he got his cer­ti­fi­ca­tion im­me­di­ately upon re­turn­ing to Austin.

I thought of that re­cently when I was help­ing my youngest daugh­ter find a hunter ed­u­ca­tion class for my twin grand­kids, Ben and Con­nie. They are 11 years old now and are ready to start hunt­ing, and they need to get that cer­ti­fi­ca­tion out of the way.

All this has been lead­ing up to this mo­ment. When you head out to hunt doves on or near Fri­day, be sure you have taken care of the ad­min­is­tra­tive things you need for hunt­ing each fall. Hunter ed­u­ca­tion is one of the things you have to have sooner or later, and it makes sense to get it done be­fore the sea­son, not try to find a mid­night class the night be­fore the sea­son opens.

But hunter ed­u­ca­tion is just one thing you’ll need to have taken care of be­fore the sea­son starts, and it’s not the main thing. That would be your new hunt­ing and fish­ing li­cense. The new li­censes kick in Fri­day and run through Aug. 31, 2018. They went on sale Aug. 15 at ven­dors around the state.

And since this is a new year al­to­gether for li­cense hold­ers and hunters in Texas, let’s go through a checklist of some things it makes sense to have with you and in your ve­hi­cle when the sea­son opens and dove-shoot­ing starts. Things like:

You’ll need shells and a gun. Be­fore you start think­ing how ob­vi­ous that is, con­sider what I did when I showed up for the an­nual Op­er­a­tion Game Thief sport­ing clays shoot a cou­ple of years back. I had all my boxes of shells in my field bag but picked the wrong shot­gun out of my gun cabi­net when I was pack­ing up that morn­ing. Twenty-eight gauge shells will NOT fit in a .410 bore. I couldn’t buy .410s at Capi­tol City and had to bor­row a 20-gauge shot­gun and buy shells from a dis­play Joe McBride had set up for the day.

If you’re shoot­ing an au­toloader or a pump, be sure you have a plug in the shot­gun from the start. You should not be able to load more than two shells in the mag­a­zine while hunt­ing mi­gra­tory birds.

Make sure those shells you have are proper for the game you’re chas­ing — 7½s to 9s for doves and maybe 6s for teal if you’re do­ing a dou­ble­header that day. Don’t mix the lead and steel in the field, and make sure they’re sep­a­rate in your truck.

Cam­ou­flage or neu­tral earth-toned cloth­ing (par­tic­u­larly shirts) isn’t re­quired, but it will help you when dove-hunt­ing. And while you’re at it, spray your clothes with in­sect re­pel­lent be­fore you leave. Some­thing with per­me­thrin will keep chig­gers and ticks off you for a cou­ple of months after a sin­gle spray­ing.

You’ll need ice and a cooler for cold wa­ter and drinks and a sep­a­rate wa­ter con­tainer to keep your dog hy­drated if you take one with you. I carry a plainly marked plas­tic 5-gal­lon wa­ter con­tainer in the truck that I can pour for my dog to drink or pour over her if she starts to over­heat in the blast fur­nace of an early Septem­ber hunt­ing day. You be sur­prised how often that hap­pens here in Texas.

The ice will help pre­vent spoilage of your birds while you’re head­ing home. It helps if you carry plas­tic food stor­age bags to put your birds in on the ice. I al­ways have a Sharpie or other per­ma­nent marker in the truck to write my name and li­cense num­ber, plus the date of the hunt and the num­ber of birds in that bag. That’s im­per­a­tive if you have more than one hunter who’s us­ing that ice chest or if you’re hunt­ing more than one day on a par­tic­u­lar trip.

Keep your­self cool with wa­ter and wear sun­screen, for sure. Skin can­cer isn’t any­thing to fool around with. Wear a hat to shield your eyes from the sun and to keep the doves from see­ing your face. You’d be sur­prised how many times a dove will flare when a hunter raises his face to the sky.

And fi­nally, the limit is 15 doves com­bined. Count them. Know how many you have in your bag, and don’t leave one in there.

I still have a smelly game bag from a mourn­ing dove I missed nearly 10 years ago. It’s the worst smell ever.

You don’t have to sep­a­rate mourn­ing doves or whitew­ings or leave a wing on the whitew­ings. Just don’t take more than your share, and keep them sep­a­rate once they’re on ice.

CON­TRIB­UTED BY MIKE LEGGETT

Whitew­ings are com­mon through­out Cen­tral Texas now, though mourn­ing doves still out­num­ber them. The sea­son be­gins Fri­day.

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