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Motion-wing decoys: Opening day thoughts while hunting doves

Don Birsa takes down his high flying motion-wing dove decoy Thursday after opening day of dove hunting at Des Plaines State Fish and Wildlife Area.
Credit: Dale Bowman

Retrieving a mourning dove, I looked down Field B Thursday and immediately thought of the wind turbines clustered near Streator and Marseilles. That many motion-wing decoys were whirling on opening day for dove hunting in Illinois at Des Plaines State Fish Wildlife Area in Wilmington.

When motion-wing decoys–battery-powered wings make them eye-catching–first came out, they were magic. They were primarily used for duck hunting, but quickly spread to dove hunting, too.

With the proliferation of motion-wing decoys, the initial success slowed.

Meet Don Birsa.

I watched Birsa stake a motion-wing dove decoy 10 feet high in the field as shooting opened at noon. When I downed my first dove, I asked if I could walk in front of him to retrieve it. We began talking. For the next several hours, we talked fishing (he’s a member of Fish Tales Fishing Club), hunting and life.

Birsa is a retired carpenter living in Blue Island.

I have no handyman skills. Zero. Zilch. So I find people who do fascinating.

Here’s what Birsa did to make his motion-wing decoy distinctive. He raises it high above the field. Considering we were on the far end of Field B, he did some lugging with everything.

He crimps the end of a 3-foot piece of 1-inch conduit. Then he drives the crimped point into the ground using a covering board and hammer. He inserts the motion-wing decoy (it fits perfectly) into a longer piece of conduit, then connects the two conduit pieces with a coupler.

“But you have to make sure not to lose the screws,’’ Birsa said.

Ergo, a motion-wing decoy that literally rises above the rest.

Did it help? Hard to say. Statewide, it was a down opener for Illinois dove hunters, that was especially true at the weedy fields of Des Plaines.

I went 2-for-2 (perfect). It really struck me this year that I am getting older. In younger days, I would have ripped off 15 or 20 shots and probably gotten another dove or two. But I find making a good shot more important now and that conversation means more than shooting.

Matthiessen State Park, usually the top site near Chicago, had an off year, too, averaging only 6.4 doves per hunter. Iroquois SWA was the top nearby site (8.5 dph).

But Matthiessen staff also track other statistics, which I find interesting. Out of the 695 doves bagged, there were 5,301 shots taken (a dove per 7.6 shots). I haven’t found a recent study, but the accepted figure is that the average hunter bags one dove per 6 or 7 shots. I suspect the slightly higher figure this year at Matthiessen indicates tougher shooting or more shots at birds farther out.

Coolest sight was Lucian Marin leading three generations, two of his young daughters and his father, into the field at Des Plaines.

With only two dove breasts, I did not get overly fancy cooking. I simply flash fried them in bacon grease as appetizers.

STRAY CAST: Kyle Hendricks is to pitching what a leech fisherman is to fishing smallmouth bass.