CHANDLERVILLE, Ill. — I looked and realized I had my first Eurasian collared-dove.

Sunday was a day for firsts.

I drew my first dove permit for Jim Edgar Panther Creek State Fish and Wildlife Area, usually the top site for dove hunting.

I’ve fished and camped at the 16,550-acre site, but Sunday was my first time hunting it.

Site superintendent Billy Lowe told me people start lining up during the night for the 8 a.m. first-come, first-served draw. I arrived at 7:30 a.m., and 60 people were ahead of me — including those with sleeping bags by the office door.

But I was able to pick a good field spot from the few remaining when my turn came and had my best day at a public site for dove hunting. Doves flew, and the shooting was steady.

Because the draw is early, locals will draw, then go home until hunting time, explained Kenny Greer of nearby Ashland. Others go fishing, which explained the boats and trailers in the parking lot. Next time, I will go fishing. On Sunday, I relaxed until the start.

The doves flew so well that I kept precise records on my shooting.

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Sunflowers against the horizon at Jim Edgar Panther Creek SFWA.
Dale Bowman/Sun-Times

I started off with seven shots at four doves to get the first one, the Eurasian collared-dove. Or 7-4-1, if you’re thinking about metrics for dove hunters.

In 2013, Phil Bourjaily wrote for Field and Stream: ‘‘The average shot fires 5-7 shots per dove.’’ That’s roughly what I’ve read. For comparison, make the average DPS (doves per shell) at .167.

Eurasian collared-doves, notable for the black crescent on their necks and squared-off tails, are bigger than mourning doves. The non-native Eurasian collared-doves have been spreading.

Back to metrics for dove hunters. I went 3-3-1, 5-4-1, 1-1-1, 7-6-1 (reality check), 1-1-1, 7-5-1, 1-1-1, 3-1-1, 5-3-1, 2-1-1, 1-1-1, 1-1-1, 1-1-1, 1-1-1.

I have an explanation for the brilliant run at the end of five birds with six shells. The birds were flying better, and I forced myself to calm down and be more selective in shots for a DPS of .833 during that stretch. That’s as improbable as Walt Dropo getting 12 consecutive hits in 1952.

I was done at 4:30 p.m. Technically, I could have bagged one more. Eurasian collared-doves don’t count against the daily bag of 15, but you can’t stay in the field if you have the limit of 15 mourning or white-winged doves already.

Was the trip worth leaving at 4 a.m. and getting home at 8:30 p.m.? Yes — partly for the Labor Day platter of bacon-wrapped, bone-in dove breasts I made.

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There is good reasons for dove hunters to begin lining up the night before opening day at Jim Edgar Panther Creek SFWA.
Dale Bowman/Sun-Times

Cast & Compare

The Illinois Smallmouth Alliance holds its Cast & Compare, a chance to compare and try fly rods, from 8 a.m. to noon Saturday at the Glenwood Forest Preserve in Batavia.

Stray cast

Listening to the eulogies Saturday morning was like wading a mountain stream after wallowing in Bubbly Creek.