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Preparation helps keep hunters out of court

Well folks, looks like we have made it! Hunting season. Dove season opens Saturday, Sept. 6 (in Louisiana). This is the day many of us have been waiting for, our first day afield.

The very first thing to do is buy the proper license. Remember that the dove we typically hunt is classified as a federal migratory bird. This means that a citation (ticket) will go to a federal court system somewhere in your state. Generally speaking, this trip is non-productive to your overall well-being.

The license for our “new” season is generally a prerequisite for the other licenses we will buy to pursue our outdoor hobbies.

The very next thing to do is check your shotgun, primarily seeing that the shotgun is legally plugged. We might have hunted in some special extended goose season, hunted out of the country or merely cleaned “Ol' Betsy” and somehow left the “plug” out. That can result in a trip to a federal court in a city near you. This trip is also non-productive.

A legally “plugged” shotgun is one that holds one shell in the chamber and two in the magazine. I have seen many a shotgun on opening day without a plug. “I just bought this shotgun Tuesday,” would be a reply. If it's a used shotgun, the previous owner might have removed the plug. It's your responsibility to confirm your shotgun's shell capacity.

Be careful of where you go. I located a great number of doves in mid-August at a harvested corn field that borders an old brake. Here we have an ideal hunting scenario: food, water and a resting place. Beware of a food product that was not or is not growing where you are hunting, referred to as “baiting.” This too will earn you a trip to town.

Hopefully by now you have located enough birds to hunt and have asked permission to hunt on the property. Shot sizes of 7 1/2 or 8 will work fine on doves. If you own a shotgun with screw-in chokes, by all means carry several tubes with you. We are finding more and more that modified, improved modified and even improved cylinder are just “liquid poison” for most situations.

I won't get into bag limits. They surely will vary from state to state, so be mindful of limits and shooting hours. Being off on these rules will also result in an undesirable trip to town later on.

Carry some type of insect repellant with you. As we all know, September will be hot and if it starts raining again we will be inundated with mosquitoes. There's nothing worse than being hot, trying to look 360 degrees around you, brushing the inevitable fire ant off your britches leg, all the while fighting “skeeters.”

When you wake up Monday morning, look in the mirror. Will your shooting shoulder be blue? Check the recoil pad on your shotgun. It should be soft and flexible. This feature of the stock is fairly easy and economical to replace. Remember, we have been shooting “light” loads and with the punishment of “high brass” or “heavy loads” in the upcoming duck season, now might be the time to replace this item.

Hunt with safety on your mind. Carry a youngun' with you. They will see a lot more than we will and they will remember it for a lifetime. Enjoy the hunt.

If you get a chance, take a kid hunting or fishing. For that matter, take anyone. One doesn't have to kill to enjoy the outdoors. Some of the best friends and meals are made “at the camp.”

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