CHANDLERVILLE, Ill.--I bought a VW bug, a deer rifle and a Mossberg 12-gauge shotgun the summer I turned 18. The Mossberg served me for 44 years, but, as years mount, I’m switching to a 20-gauge shotgun, courtesy of my late father-in-law, for field hunting.
Sunday was my first hunt with it on opening day for dove season in Illinois.
I patterned it last week at 30 yards and 40 yards. I was stunned at the size of gaps in the pattern at 40 yards. Just a thought if you have never patterned your shotgun.
For the second year, I drew a permit for Jim Edgar Panther Creek State Fish and Wildlife Area. Thee 16,550-acre site in Cass County is traditionally the top public dove site in Illinois.
JEPC handles its draw as first-come, first-served beginning at 8 a.m. That should change next year with all sites going to an 11 a.m. draw for permitted hunters followed by the standby draw. That announcement drew a cheer from most of the crowd.
A thunderstorm slowed me, but saved me from getting poured on like those waited in line overnight (think old days waiting for baseball or concert tickets). I was a couple people behind Gabriel Hart of Pekin and his oldest child, Sarah, 8.
``This is my first time,’’ Sarah said.
``She wanted to tag along before,’’ her father said. ``Next I think we will try a deer stand or a goose hunting.’’
It touched me. Our daughter, Sara, was a few years older when she would join me in the deer stand when she was considering bowhunting.
I took an end flag in the back of Field 6, a good pick. Walking in, doves flew around the sunflower fields and nearby trees.
My first time shooting the 20-gauge seriously was appalling. But, after going through a box of shells, I settled into passable pass shooting. It was humbling to sit by two guys who limited out in the first three hours.
The final half hour (dove hunting ended at 5 p.m.) doves came across the treeline in waves, some speeding, some barrel-rolling and many swerving in or out.
Back at the parking lot after closing time, a lone dove sat on a wire across the gravel road.
It was time.
All in all, a memorable day: became comfortable with a different shotgun, shot enough doves to make kabobs Monday, saw cockbird and poult pheasants, watched a couple deer and caught a largemouth bass in the morning from Gridley Lake.
ILLINOIS HUNTING: Teal season opens Saturday. Maybe the cold snap this week will bring some.
WILD THINGS: I saw lots of giant dragonflies, at least some were darners, at JEPC. So many so big it was visually distracting.
STRAY CAST: Steve Stone is to a certain Sox fans what a fly fisher is to meat hounds.