“You ready?” said my cousin Jim Martino as I threw my shotgun, daypack and decoys in the back of his SUV. We had been drawn for the opening day of the dove hunting season at the Willow Slough Fish and Wildlife Area. Even nicer was the fact legal shooting hours didn’t begin until noon, giving no reason to leave during the morning’s earliest hours.
This state property, like many others across Indiana, manages fields and other open areas specifically for doves. They are planted with milo, millet and sunflowers. Consequently, these swift flying birds can sometimes pour into them by the hundreds, driving some shotgunners crazy. There has been plenty of hunters left standing with barrels wavering against an azure sky.
After the short drive, we found ourselves in a mix with people of all ages. Everyone congregates at the property office where the DNR does an excellent job of placing hunters in specific fields for the safety of everyone.
“This is one of my favorite days of the year,” said Mark Tranor of Lafayette, who has several reasons to love doves, most involving bacon, garlic and a hot grill.
Bob Sasser enjoys dove season for another reason. “Our family is going 50 different directions all year long,” he explained. “But dove season is a chance for the boys and I to spend some quality time together,” he added. He was flanked by his sons Ethan and Aaron.
Once assignments were handed out, everyone quickly headed to their designated locations. It wasn’t long before the report of shotguns echoed across the countryside.
During a lull in the action I visited briefly with Hank Schumacher, a plumber from Northwest Indiana. Sitting next to him was his son-in-law Jason Hatch, who resides in Indianapolis and heads up a software company. Hatch was introduced to bird hunting by his father-in-law.