Opening day of dove season comes with flying doves and some surprises at Des Plaines SFWA
The experience of opening day of dove season at a new field at Des Plaines State Fish and Wildlife Area.
A deer bleating caught my attention Thursday. I sat still while a half-grown spotted fawn gingerly walked into view, then within 10 feet before deciding I didn’t belong and took off with a fare-thee-well flip of its white tail.
Then its twin, now alerted and more wary, walked within 25 feet. It eyed me in the nest I had stamped in the grasses and cockleburs for opening day of dove hunting at Des Plaines State Fish and Wildlife Area. Then it disappeared, too.
Long-time readers can guess how my opening day went if I lead with fawns. It will not end with a gushing report of grilled bacon-and-jalapeno wrapped bone-in dove breasts.
But I had a helluva day.
When I signed in, I chose Field D because I had walked it during deer season. When I said D, office staff tried to guide me to B, the way Peter Sagal tries to point guests to the right answer on “Wait Wait ... Don’t Tell Me!” But staff also said doves had been working both fields the day before.
Des Plaines SFWA, outside of Wilmington, is popular for dove hunting. Forty-two permit holders showed up, another 21 standbys were picked. I counted about 15 others hoping for standby.
At the pre-hunt speech, John Saban bumped into me and said they were going to F.
Field D is small, narrow and across the road from Joliet Motorsports Park. Keep that in mind. Orange paint on vegetation marked hunting spots, rather than the usual stakes and orange ribbons.
The group next to me set up two motion-wing decoys. That mattered. They had far more action than I did. I did have a few silhouette decoys, made by retired Prosser shop teacher Frank Lagodny.
At the noon start to shooting, three vultures floated nearby. I couldn’t decipher the symbolism. On a practical level, I should’ve brought my 20-gauge out instead of the 12. The 20 would have been easier and quicker to swing in the small field.
As usual lots of goldfinches worked sunflowers. Robins and blue jays plied the edges and woods before the shooting crescendoed.
Our shooting was spread out in spurts.
A flurry came near 2:30 when the shadows from the treeline to our backs, mercifully, reached out to shade us.
About 3:15 the motocross crowd started running, gunning and jumping around the track, I’m guessing the kids were out of school. Maybe it was a coincidence, but flocks of doves started flying one after another after they started roaring around.
Late afternoon, I had a hummingbird work a cocklebur inches from my face.
With an hour to go, one of the fawns made an encore appearance until a round of shooting down the line spooked it.
It was time.
Doves were still flying at the 5 p.m. end of shooting.
The daily bag is 15 mourning/white-winged doves. There are no limits on Eurasian-collared doves and ringed turtle doves, but you may not continue hunting them after reaching the daily limit of mourning/white-winged doves.
In the last couple decades, nonindigenous Eurasian-collared doves (slightly bigger than mourning doves with a raspier call, blockier tails, and a small dark collar) have become more noticeable, both in the field and towns.
After the hunt, Saban texted that his group bagged 13, 12 and eight doves and that it was “Pretty slow until 3.”
Then added, “[Field] G had better shooting.”
In recent years, Illinois has split dove seasons. This year first season runs through Nov. 14. The second is Dec. 26 to Jan. 9, 2023.