Thursday, August 26, 2004
Bill Cochran's Mailbag: How to find doves, 2004
Bill Cochran's Outdoors
- Virginia’s hunting totals produce mixed results
- A good trade: Virginia trout for Kentucky elk
- Forget the odds-makers; Salem’s John Crews believes he can win the Bassmaster Classic.
- The good and bad of the 2012 saltwater fishing season
- Column archive
Bill's Field Reports
- Virginia General Assembly goes soft on outdoor issues
- Quail Unlimited calls it quits
- Field reports archive
BILL: I just moved to the Hampton Roads area from Houston and would like to find a dove lease/hunt that is not too overcrowded or unsafe. I have a couple of kids I would like to introduce to hunting.
BILL: With dove season just around the corner, last year there were a couple of farmers in the Virginia Beach area that allowed dove hunting on their property. Do you know of any for this year’s hunting season?
BILL: I am new to the Mid-Atlantic area, having just relocated from Texas. I am looking for any advice for great dove, quail and pheasant hunting. Thanks a million -- I am itching to get out.
BILL: You recommended a couple of pay-hunting locations for dove sometime back. Do you mind refreshing my memory?
BILL: I am new to Richmond and am having a time trying to find some dove hunting. Can you give me a hint as to where I might find a place? The Richmond Times-Dispatch didn't have any ads last time I looked.
DEAR MIKE, ISIAH, BLAKE, STEVE and STEVE: I wish I could send you a lengthy list of dove hunting fields, but there simply isn’t one that I am aware of in Virginia. Both pay and public fields are scarce, and those that are available fill up quickly. Here are some suggestions on finding pay/public dove fields:
>>Check with the hunting and fishing stores in your area.
>>Contact the outdoor writer of your local newspaper.
>>Call the district offices of the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. You can find their locations and phone numbers on the DGIF Web site: dgif.state.va.us. Ask to speak to the district biologist or game warden in charge. Tell him you want to know about public, club or pay dove-hunting opportunities in the region.
>>Join wildlife organizations in your area. Richmond, for example, has a dove club. Some Ducks Unlimited chapters feature organized dove hunts. The Charles City DU Chapter has one scheduled Sept 7 on a farm between Richmond and Williamsburg. It features a BBQ and auction. The fee for members is $40. The contact is Stokes McCune: firstname.lastname@example.org. Even wildlife clubs that do not offer dove shoots give you a chance to befriend members who could have a knowledge of hunting opportunities.
>>One of the largest commercial shoots can be found on Stoney Brook Plantation in Gap Mills, West Va. The attraction here is a combination pheasant and dove hunt with three meals included. It isn’t cheap, about $500. Check stoneybrookplantation.com.
Most dove hunts in Virginia take place on farm fields that you gain access to by getting permission to hunt them. No money is exchanged. Finding such fields takes work, and if you don’t have a buddy to take you to one you must locate them by driving rural roads and looking for doves and/or freshly harvested agricultural fields. Then you gain permission to hunt them. Expect to get turned away before you hit the jackpot.
Once you are in, you may have a place where you can return for years if you develop a cordial relationship with the owner. I hunted one particular truck farm for more than 20 years. Friendships developed to the point that the owner began making a BBQ lunch for those of us who came for our annual hunt. Hunters would give the landowner gifts. Everybody was happy!
BILL: Like you, I recently returned from two enjoyable weeks in Alaska, one of which included some pretty serious salmon fishing along the Parks Highway stream system.
A hometown buddy and I based our fishing out of the town of Talkeetna about 100 miles north of Anchorage. We stayed at the Sunshine B&B operated by Nancy Wilson (Sunshine@mtaonline.net) Her rates are reasonable, the modern log cabin is lovely and she is a great hostess and very knowledgeable of the area. I can’t say enough good things about her.
If you fish the highway system you really don’t need a guide. I did a riverboat guided trip on my first visit and learned enough about salmon fishing to fish on my own during subsequent trips. This was my fourth trip to the area.
When you are targeting salmon runs, timing is everything. Alaskan residents claim they don’t eat pink or chum salmon. I personally think they all taste pretty good. Unlike king and red salmon, pinks and chums can be enticed to take a fly. We wanted to put a bend in our 8 and 9 weight fly rods, so we timed our trip for when they would be abundant. Silver salmon, which are fairly easy to catch on a fly, also were starting to appear.
This has been an unusually warm and dry summer for interior Alaska. The water levels in all streams we visited were very low. The fish were schooled by the hundreds in the deeper pools waiting for higher water so they could continue upstream to their traditional spawning grounds. It was not unusual to see a single or sometimes small group of 5- to 10-pound fish swimming for all they were worth up through a 2- to 5-inch deep riffle in hopes they could make it to the next pool. Some lost their sense of direction and ended up beached or in a dead-end pool. I suspect these low water conditions will have an adverse effect on the spawn.
There were plenty of fish this year. I would guess we caught about 250. We probably hooked and lost three times that number. With that many fish in the water, it was difficult to avoid foul hooking them. About half of what we caught were foul hooked. All foul hooked fish must be returned to the water immediately. We were allowed to keep three fish per day, so many of our fair-hooked fish also were released.
It is not cheap to do one of these trips, but with careful planning it is within reach of most budgets. I’m saving my pennies so that I can go again in about two years.
Al's Smith River Guide Service
AL: While I devoted last week’s column to the time we spent fishing in Homer, Alaska, we also stayed in Talkeetna where we fished Clear Creek with a guide in one of Mahays’ jet boats. We caught so many salmon, releasing them all, that I told the guide I’d had enough and we left a couple hours early.