Ted Peck

Outdoors talk with certified Merchant Marine Captain Ted Peck.

Ted Peck: Hunters' eyes on waterfowl as birds begin migration preparation

Share on Facebook Comments Comments Print Print
Ted Peck
August 23, 2015

When you can see senior discounts on the horizon without need for binoculars, little things like oatmeal and blazing red sumac make you smile.

The joy of oatmeal is self-evident for those on the M-and-M diet: meat and Metamucil. The West wasn't won with salad. Jerky is a great way to feed a fishing machine with little time to sit and dine.

Crimson splashes of sumac and beautiful yellow goldenrod against a leafy backdrop of sleepy green mean the majesty of migration is right around the corner. Truth is the vanguard of this soft parade arrived just a few days ago with a good blow out of the northwest.

Doves are starting to show up on power lines. Dainty teal are loafing on duckweed-splattered ponds. Canada geese are in loud formation over golf courses announcing, “Look! We can fly!”

Hunting seasons for all these early migrants open in just over a week. If plans for this afternoon don't include working on the duck blind or stocking up on trap loads, it might be wise to get these tasks on the short list agenda.

All three of these early seasons are relatively new in the grand scheme of things for Wisconsin hunters. Sportsmen in other states have been enjoying these migratory resources for decades.

Surrounding states have also discovered a 70 mph speed limit on the Interstate hasn't had a disastrous impact on highway safety. Our slower pace gives Wisconsin's heroes in blue an opportunity to bolster state coffers with non-resident ticket money before Wisconsin's heroes in gray get their kick at out-of-state cats.

This seems only fair as we have historically provided nesting habitat for doves, geese and teal for the edification of Illynesians and Iowegians.

Even though we now have the opportunity to bust a cap—and a tooth—on teal and homegrown honkers, It's hard for old grunts who came of age in a time of toxic shot in paper shotshells to get cranked up to swat at webfeet between swats at mosquitoes.

Serious waterfowlers don't need to bare chests and dance around a campfire swatting their naked backs with nettles. It's much more fun to sip cold coffee in leaky waders while watching bobbing diver decoys build little skirts of ice along their waterlines.

Those who find the joy this brings might catch themselves smiling now. Then again, the expression on that gurning face might stem from lack of fiber.

Dove hunting is much less labor intensive. All that's really needed is an open-choked scattergun, trap loads, a comfy bucket to sit on and a place to hunt.

The DNR has done a wonderful job of planting sunflower patches on local public hunting grounds to attract doves. The very best fields are hiding in plain sight, best discovered by studying free maps available at the DNR service center or online.

Dove shooting is one outdoors pursuit where the adage, “The more, the merrier” is on target. Sunflowers have a hypnotic attraction for doves. The best fields have open rows which are clear of weeds.

These early migrants tend to fly in a straight line between food sources, watering area and roosting habitat. Honey locust trees are the favorite roosting habitat for these little gray rockets.

Preseason scouting is the best way to discover sunflower fields that are seeing heavy use by doves. The season opens a week from Tuesday. By Thursday, hunting pressure will drive doves toward less used fields.

Every northwest wind will bring new migrants into the area and push our doves further south. It usually takes a day or two for recent arrivals to find the sunflowers. The very best dove hunting in Rock County comes the last week in September and first week in October—when outdoor types have a plethora of activities to choose from.

A good pair of binoculars is essential equipment for all hunters. Optics are the best way to find concentrations of doves and locate flight paths where a hunter can find a location likely to produce good shooting.

Dove hors d'oeuvres are the most exciting menu option for folks on an M-and-M diet. Sandwich the two halves of a dove breast between a slice of Gouda cheese and a mild jalapeño pepper and wrap with a piece of bacon. Skewer the works and head for the grill. Hunting season and the traditional Labor Day picnic are right around the corner.

Ted Peck, a certified Merchant Marine captain, is an outdoors columnist for The Gazette. Email him at [email protected].

Share on Facebook Comments Comments Print Print