Nuthin’ But Blue Sky


James Neal stands next to a two-man take on a late-season “tailgater.” At first the
action was slow, but opening day crowds were gone.

For lots of folks, Labor Day is hunting season. It’s not hard to figure out why. In terms of logistics, dove areas are relatively accessible, and the hit to your wallet — disregarding sheer ammo expenditure— is a merciful one. Gas and an upland bird stamp aren’t much in the scheme of things either. Compared to your average local dove hunt, even a DIY South Dakota pheasant hunt is practically an African plains game safari.

Dove are easy to pluck, quick to disassemble, and taste great — barbecued, broiled and/or bacon wrapped. Plus they’re far more sporty then pen-raised anything. And — thanks in part to the proliferation of “no-limit” Eurasians — are generally plentiful. Dove hunting was the first type of hunting I ever did, and it’ll probably be the last type of hunting I ever do. It’s intensely social and family-traditional, yet can also put you into fairly close proximity with lots of other shooters who will be strangers to you.

And in some of the more crowded spots, there’s often a gun behind every tumbleweed, hay bale and stand pipe. Chances are you’ll be setting up well before dawn. And when the birds start flying, they’ll probably be coming in while bats are still flitting around. Meaning it will be before “shooting light.” And even when it begins to brighten, mourning dove often come corkscrewing in right off the deck.

Sprinkled, Stung, Slammed

So the first commandment of dove hunting — especially in crowded fields — is fairly straightforward: “Thou shalt refrain from shooting at low birds.” Until it’s light enough to be able to see where everyone is. And even then you still want to wait for birds flying high enough to abide by the the “Blue Sky Rule.”

Basically, this means you want the bird to be skylined high enough — with enough blue beneath it — so the angle of your shot doesn’t pose a hazard to anyone else. Every dove hunter gets a long-distance sprinkling with shot now and again. But being lightly rained on by a couple of No. 8s at 120 yards or so is a far cry from getting seriously peppered at 50-60 or so.

Most guys I know have been stung at one time or another and it makes for some hard feelings. Which is why eye protection is absolutely mandatory at all times. A No. 7-1/2 or 8 pellet that hits hard enough draw blood or raise a welt on your arm can wreck your eyeball.

Me? I’ll gladly settle for less action if it means less people. Back in the 1970s we hunted a very small field next to a feedlot in California’s Coachella Valley. By sunup it was packed with shooters. Somebody on the other side swung on a low bird and cut loose, hitting one of our crew, Tommy, with around 40 No. 8 pellets between his boot tops and his belt buckle.

It went well beyond your basic peppering. Some went in nearly a quarter-inch. But all of them hurt. Like a very severe instant sunburn. Once we’d patted him down to make sure nothing vital was involved, it was off to the emergency ward for a tetanus shot and assorted antibiotics. The attending physician had already had a couple of clients in from that same field. His verdict?

John Wayne is the theme for the Silver Screen Legend XXII drawing to benefit the
Happy Trails Children’s foundation.

“No sense digging them out, they’ll work their way out eventually. Here’s a bottle of Betadine.”

Sure enough, he was right. But occasionally afterward, when Tommy’d be drying off after a shower, he’d hear a tiny clink as one of his little copper-plated guests would work its way out and hit the tile.

We laugh about it now. But it could’ve been worse. Watch the low birds.

Roy, Dale and The Duke

This year, the Happy Trails Children’s Foundation is dedicating Silver Screen Legend XXI to John Wayne. The Duke-inspired guns in this annual charity drawing will include a Colt .45 Single Action Army featuring a gold-etched American eagle, and portraits of Wayne himself on both sides of the cylinder. The famed “Red River D” brand is on the backstrap in gold, and the grips are genuine ivory. It comes with a Bianchi-made John Wayne style gunbelt and holster. Also included is a “Big Loop” Winchester Model 94 carbine in .32-40, also suitably engraved. The carbine comes with a saddle scabbard, wall mount and a box of Winchester John Wayne Commemorative cartridges.

The Foundation raises money for abused children and is the only children’s charity we know of that actively supports the Second Amendment Rights and responsible gun ownership. Tickets are $10 each (11 for $100). The drawing will be held the evening of December 15, 2018, but you need not be present to win. The winner will be notified by phone or you may check the website to see if you’re the lucky one. All donations are tax deductible.
ph: (855) 788-4440

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