Outdoor / Fishing

Monday, Sep 03 2012 08:40 PM

'Cold' weather takes bite out of dove populations

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By The Bakersfield Californian

If Julie Andrews in the "Sound of Music" had sang the "fields are alive with music" rather than the hills, she would have hit the nail on the head with regard to opening day of dove season -- fields being the location and music being the sound of reverberating gunfire echoing throughout the county.

With many thousands of shots fired on opening day by throngs of sportsmen and women out for a day's hunt, it's no wonder September 1 should be construed as a national holiday.

But dove season does not necessarily mean the act of wanton shooting or the simple killing of the gray birds for sport. The act of hunting doves includes an olio of wonderful human sensations: camaraderie and love of family, friends, good food and beverage, communing with nature and acting as conservation stewards of the environment.

Despite the sudden drop in morning temperatures on Saturday morning, most hunters -- but not all --bagged their daily limits of 10 mourning doves. Almost overnight, it seems, many of the doves once floating around the county suddenly decided to leave their traditional valley breeding areas and head south. According to most experts, the birds migrate away from our area whenever the morning lows hit the 5-s, and true to form, that's exactly what happened. Poof and gone in an instant.

Fortunately, not all the birds have left. Even if only a small percentage of birds remain, there will yet be tens of thousands left to occupy most hunters' three-day outing.

Don't worry; the most populous game bird in the world has only thinned out, not left entirely.

An afternoon nap comes easily after the work has been done. The birds are feathered and cleaned, guns are re-oiled, spent shells replaced and cooling beverages get restocked into cold boxes in anticipation of the first of tomorrow's volleys. Most people look forward to tonight's dinner with old friends and family, and that's what dove hunting is all about.

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