story Rick Windham
North Platte, Neb.

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September 5, 2013
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Are you ready for Nebraska's dove season?

Take a look at your calendar.

Sunday, Sept. 1 is the date!

Are you ready?

Want to increase your dove hunting success this fall?

You only have a little time left to tune up your wing shooting skills by patterning your shotgun and practice shooting a few clay targets before opening day.

Patterning your shotgun is critical!

You have to know where your shot is going to be effective in the field.

When I’m testing the pattern of a new shotgun or a new choke in the barrel, I like to put up a 4-foot square of paper (freezer paper works well) and put a 2-inch square in the center of the paper as an aiming point. If you think about it, a 2-inch by 2-inch square is about the size of the body of a dove.

I then draw a 15-inch radius around the square to make a circle.

I prefer to hang my patterning target from a frame about waist level above the ground.

I don’t like mounting my target to anything “solid” because you can get “bounce-back” on pellets and that will give you an inaccurate picture of how your pattern is performing.

Even wood or plastic backers can cause “bounce-back,” so I like to use nothing at all behind the target if possible, but construction paper and light cardboard can work.

I set my target at 40 yards for my 12 gauge — 20 yards for something like a .410.

I fire a single test shot at each target with each brand of ammunition I intend to use.

Remember, not all ammunition patterns the same way.

For dove hunting, I use number 7½ to 9 shot.

I’ll do the same thing for patterning a shotgun for pheasants and waterfowl.

Fire your test shot, then count the number of holes within the circle.

I suggest doing this at least four times and averaging the result.

I then cut open one of the shells I’m using and count the number of pellets.

Using that number I can come up with a good estimate of the percentage of shot I’m putting in the target zone.

For example, using a 12 gauge and a full choke, you should see 70 to 80 percent of the shot inside the circle on the target.

With a modified choke, better than 50 percent of the shot should be inside the circle and 40-45 percent for an improved cylinder choke.

After the paper targeting is done, it is time to practice shooting some trap, skeet or sporting clays ... moving targets.

Practice is the only way to hone your wing shooting skills.

Don’t waste any more time.

Get your shotgun out and do a little practice shooting this week.

Something else you can try to increase your odds at dove hunting: Put out a few dove decoys.

They work!

Good luck to everyone who will be hunting on Sunday!

Fall Turkey Hunting

Fall season turkeys permits are now on sale.

Permits are valid statewide and each permit allows the take of two turkeys of either sex.

Each hunter can obtain two permits, which may be two archery permits, two shotgun permits or one of each.

The season runs from Sept. 15 to Jan. 31, 2014.

Fall turkey permits are $23 for residents and $90 for nonresidents.

Fall turkey hunting can be a great experience.

You will find plenty of birds this fall.

Nebraska’s turkey population has increased 400 percent or more in the last decade.

I think you generally have less hunting pressure and have to deal with fewer hunters in the spring season.

It is a great time to take “newbie” hunters into the field to get their first hunting experience.

I like to also use my time in the field turkey hunting to do some extra pre-season scouting for the deer season.

You will be amazed at how much information you can gather for your deer hunt.

Call it “redneck multi-tasking!”

Rick Windham writes about the outdoors from North Platte, Neb., for various newspapers and magazines across Nebraska and the region.

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The Fence Post Updated Oct 16, 2013 03:01PM Published Sep 23, 2013 09:27AM Copyright 2013 The Fence Post. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.