The hot Texas wind blew hard and steady from my right, and I saw the doves swooping and diving hundreds of yards away at the edges of the field. I sat in the shade of a bushy mesquite at the far end of the cut-over crop field, my 20-gauge Remington 870 ready. Waiting, waiting.
And then a handful of mourning doves sliced in from my right on a gust of wind. My shots, I knew as I took them, were going to miss, the doves riding a 25-mile-per-hour gust of wind and zooming by at Mach Dove 3. But I took the shots, anyway, and three empty Remington Game Loads shells hit the hard Texas ground to my right.
The doves glanced backward as they whipped on by, seemingly annoyed.
“What the heck was that, Billy?” I imagined one dove saying to the other.
“Dumb hunter,” Billy said. “We’re safe.”
They were safe. As would be other doves that afternoon. But, I figured, it was time to get the Remington 870 shotgun unlimbered, start the process of finding my range and getting my lead and swing right. I just hoped it wouldn’t take a whole box of shells.
The September 1 Texas dove hunt opener gets a lot of press, and rightly so, as tens of thousands of hunters hit the fields on that day alone. The dove opener is a ritual in Texas, a celebration of the hunting spirit, and a rite of passage for the young and first-time hunters. In the small Texas towns, opening day of doves means pickup trucks lined up at the cafes, the gas stations and the Dairy Queens, their beds loaded down with folding chairs and gun cases, decoys and coolers.
Large coolers. A September One dove hunt in Texas is hot and thirsty work!
However, Texas dove hunting is actually very good to flat out great all through the fall and into the winter. With a daily bag limit of 15 doves (no more than two of which can be white-winged doves), the Texas dove hunt goes from September 1 and into November (specific ending dates depend on the hunting zone), picks up again in December and runs into January.
This hunting season, for example, you can hunt second season doves until January 23, 2020, in the South Zone! The possession limit is three times the daily bag limit.
(For more information on the Texas dove hunting season, including specific county-by-county regulations, check out the Texas Parks and Wildlife website.
I was in Texas in October of 2019, mostly to hunt hogs and mostly at night. But when I was making plans for the hunt with Bryan Wilson of Frio County Hunts, located south and west of San Antonio, Wilson mentioned the fall dove hunting there was good and could even be impressive. As not many people actually did it, we’d pretty much have a dove hunt or two to ourselves.
“You have a shotgun, right?” Wilson asked.
“Bring it along. Nothing better than Dove Poppers on the grill!”
It took me eight tries, but I was finally able to drop my first dove of the afternoon. Did I mention I pretty much suck at wing shooting, in no small part because I don’t do it regularly and almost never practice it? Yeah, I suck. But it’s still a lot of fun.
On this hunt, I finally figured out I needed to shoot only when the wind at least died down. The doves still came by fast, but nothing like when they blasted by on the Texas Jet Stream.
There were lots of doves, too, groups of 20 and 30 whipping by and all sorts of singles, doubles, and triples flying in, too.
I wasn’t using any great and insightful hunting tactics. The cut-over field in front of me had grown oats, and of course, there was plenty of it on the ground to attract birds. Plus, two livestock watering tanks were situated nearby, further drawing in the doves. I sat in the shade and waited for doves to fly by and shot as opportunities were present.
My Remington Express Combo 20-gauge, I soon discovered, was a great choice. Using the Remington Game Loads, with the 2 3/4’” shells holding 7/8 of an ounce of #7 1/2 shot, the recoil was minimal; it could and did take down doves at 30 yards with modified choke tube that came standard. The workhorse 870 pump action cycled fast and smoothly, while the 26-inch vented barrel got me on target easily enough, even if the shooter himself wasn’t always that accurate.
As noted, it is a Combo version, so it also came with a 20-inch rifled slug barrel topped with rifle sights. Stock and forend are hard wood with a satin sheen.
Simple, very functional, with the front of the barrel tipped with an Old School bead. I like the 870 Express.
It is affordable, too. Remington lists the suggested retail price at $609, but the various retailers I looked up online apparently didn’t get that message; I found it offered for as low as $479.00. Wing shooting and turkeys with the smoothbore barrel, deer, hogs and black bears with the slug barrel, all for under $500, and in a lighter recoiling 20-gauge?
I’d term that as, “Winning.”
My hunt was a pretty light gear affair, too. My shotgun and shells, a folding seat and a couple of bottles of water in my backpack were all I needed.
Okay, I did have one piece of non-basic gear. Wilson had three MOJO Voodoo Dove decoys with him, spinning-wing style decoys that run on four AA batteries each. Sure, I said, let’s see if they work.
They did. Work that is. Set up on a short pole, the decoy bodies are angled the right way to mimic a dove coming down for a landing, and with the spinning wings, they did, in fact, pull in some birds. A dozen times or more, I saw doves flying at distances too far for my shotgun suddenly cut in right at the MOJO Voodoo Doves.
MOJO rates the decoys as running 16 hours on one set of batteries. The support pole is made of steel, with an ON/OFF switch located on the underside of the decoy body.
This was Texas and nearly 90 degrees when we got to the field, so I was also outfitted with snake protection. I used Snake Guardz Snake Proof Chaps in Mossy Oak Break-Up Country.
Much lighter than snake boots (and easier to pack when I am flying, and luggage space is at a premium) Snake Guardz are made of tough 1000 Denier Nylon covering even sturdier polycarbonate inserts. They weigh just 11-ounces apiece and are snake-proof to 17-inches high. A unique built-in toe cover offers protection to the laces area of the boot or shoe, too.
My Snake Guardz were easy to attach and fit comfortably. Fortunately, I didn’t run into any rattlers or their various cousins. But the Snake Guardz effectively shielded my lower legs through cactus and thorny brush.
Once he was done doing some scouting for the night’s hog hunt, Wilson returned and set up about 100 yards to my right. He was and is a pretty deft dove shot and dropped some of his own.
But invariably you will miss on doves and when he did, he pushed a few groups right at me. I whiffed on my share, but dropped several of these “pushed” doves, too.
I did not set any dove hunting accuracy records. One box of the Game Loads and I only accounted for five doves. But it was fun, great to be outside and shooting, and got me ready for the night’s hog hunting.
Next time I am in Texas for a fall or winter deer or hog hunt? I’m bringing along my Remington 870 20-gauge. And Wilson wasn’t kidding: Grilled Dove Poppers are excellent!