For a brief moment, Chrissy Girres thought the tales about how difficult doves were to hit were greatly exaggerated.
Just 12 hours after she fired a shotgun for the first time — busting clay targets in preparation for the Missouri dove opener Monday — she was aiming at the real deal. As a dove sped across a cut sunflower field where she and her mentor, Andrew White, were hiding, she twisted and fired a difficult 45-degree angle shot. Then she watched as the dove tumbled to the ground.
“Great shot,” White said. “You looked like a veteran on that one.”
Moments later, though, Girres came back to earth. She fired shot after shot at the doves that were flocking to the cut sunflowers on the Poosey Conservation Area in north-central Missouri but failed to connect.
“You were close on that one,” White said. “You got a few feathers. But you shot just a little behind.”
Such is life for a first-time hunter. Especially when doves are the first target. They are the speed demons of the gamebird world, and they have the moves of Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles, twisting and darting to avoid contact.
Still, they offer one distinct advantage for first-time hunters. On opening day, they usually show up at feed fields in force, providing plenty of chances for novice hunters to pull the trigger.
Perhaps that’s why Girres was having such a good time during her introduction to hunting. She had piles of yellow shell casings scattered around her but a far smaller pile of doves. Still, she was enjoying herself.
Girres was participating in a special event for first-time hunters, sponsored by the National Wild Turkey Federation, Quail Forever and the Missouri Department of Conservation. That included some youths, and adults like Girres, too.
In the program, the hunters are required to attend clinics taught by the Department of Conservation first, then they had a chance to participate in a mentored hunt at several locations across the state.
“We do a lot to introduce kids to hunting, but we saw a need to appeal to adults, too,” said John Burk of the National Wild Turkey Federation, one of the coordinators of the new program. “If the kids get all excited about our sport through a youth hunt and they come home to a mom or dad who doesn’t hunt, chances are they won’t get out again.
“We came up with this program to show adults who had limited experience with hunting how much fun it can be.”
White, a farm bill biologist for Quail Forever, a national conservation organization, coordinated the hunt at Poosey and served as Girres’ mentor. The Department of Conservation reserved a three-acre field on its conservation area, then White led a group of 15 hunters and their mentors afield.
The ground was still muddy from a downpour the night before, but that didn’t bother the doves. Or the hunters.
The hunters hid in cover along the edge of the field and watched as groups of doves swept down on the cut sunflowers, their idea of candy. Shots boomed regularly, and most of the time, the birds flew on.
But there were enough doves taken to give the first-time hunters a taste of what the sport was all about.
“My boyfriend loves hunting, and my son is just getting into it,” Girres said. “I’ve always tagged along and would take the pictures.
“But I wanted to get involved. That’s why this program was perfect for me.”
Not far away, Jenny Moss was thinking the same thing.
“My first request: slower-flying birds,” she said.
Hunting doves for the first time, she fired away as her husband, Mark, patiently provided advice. She started slowly, but she got on a hot streak and soon had five doves in a pile beside her
“My husband hunts everything that moves, and I knew if I wanted to spend time with him in the fall, I would have to learn how to hunt,” she said. “I feel confident now that I could go out with him. I’ve enjoyed this.”
To reach outdoors editor Brent Frazee, call 816-234-4319 or send email to email@example.com.