Tremendous Top Ten: 10 Tools for Better Dove Hunting

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Dove season is one of my favorite social events.  Laughing, shooting and good times had by all.  I also love the way dove taste. Here are some tips to make your next hunt tremendous:

1.  Bring a stool or bucket.  Unless the action is super hot, you’ll want to sit.  A bucket with a spinning top gives the added advantage of allowing you some storage, but I prefer a folding stool since I use a backpack for storage.  This lets me shoot any dove I see on the way to my spot.

2.  Wear a bird hunting vest.  When I’m walking to retrieve my downed dove, I often have other dove fly over head.  With a vest, I have a place for extra shells and somewhere to put the birds once I’ve picked them up.

3.  Don’t forget your retrievers.  My favorite are little kids under 10.  They love chasing down your birds, and it’s an easy way to introduce them to hunting.  They don’t have to be still or quiet, and its action packed.  Do bring a BB gun for them to play with in case the birds aren’t flying.  Or bring your dog.

4.  Mojo Dove.  This and other decoys aren’t necessary, but are fun when they work.  I’m not sure how much longer they will, because ducks wised up pretty fast.  But for now Mojo’s are still pretty effective.

5.  Off/Thermacell. Forgetting this can ruin your hunt.  The sun, poison ivy, cactus and snakes will usually be present yet avoidable.  But if the skeeters are active, you have little hope.

6.  Drinks.  I don’t know how many times I’ve had to walk back to the truck for a drink and watched as dove flew right over where I was sitting.  Bring something cool to drink.  

7.  Neutral colored, light weight clothing.   I’ve killed limits in blue hospital scrubs, blue jeans, and even a floral Hawaiian shirt,  but I think the birds flare more if you wear bright clothing.  You can do it in shorts, but long pants help when the birds go down in high grass or thorns.

8.  12 or 20 gauge shotgun and  7.5 or 8 shells.    I’ve killed hundreds with an improved cylinder and modified choke.  However, with an increase in the number of Eurasian Collared Dove, or if there are pigeons where you hunt, 6 and 7s kill a little better.

9.  Game Shears.  I pluck the vast majority of dove, but not their wing tips.  These get snipped in the field along with their feet.

10.  Friends.  Dove hunting is a social event and should be treated as such.   Multiple hunters improve hunting by keeping the birds on the move.   Share the fun.

Pretty simple list, but if you forget any of these it can negatively influence your hunt.  If you dove hunt regularly, what do you consider a must have when you go out?

Tremendous Top Ten: Oysters On Your Own

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About 9 months after I last gathered oysters, we had our third son. Risking further family expansion, I made my way down to Matagorda for my favorite food from the sea. Exuding sweet saltiness with an ice water freshness, these sensuous mollusks are filled with zinc which promotes testosterone production. Couple that little science nugget with the rigors of battling cold water and wet sea winds, razor sharp shells, muddy boot sucking bogs–and you can see getting your own oysters is a big time manly pursuit. Venture out with these ten tremendous tools and you’ll likely become a true aficionado, even connoisseur, of the oyster.

1. Chest Waders and Warm Clothes. You can get by with hip waders or rubber boots, but you’ll eventually get wet.

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Some are bothered by the cold more than others…

2. Hammer. Oysters are social creatures, and will attach themselves to each other and to dead shells. Knock off the extra shells and small oysters, tossing them back to the reef where you found them.

3. Water Proof Gloves. I’ve done it without gloves but you will pay with a thousand paper cuts and cold hands.

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4. Cold Weather If you get your oysters while its warm, they will be watery and not as tasty. Plus, you have to worry about them staying good on the ride home. Wait for a cold snap.

5. Kayak. Even if you can drive bayside, you will want to get away from the easily accessed spots to find the better oysters. Kayaks let you cruise the shallow areas dredge boats cannot.

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6. Measuring Device. State laws will dictate a certain size, usually in the 3 inch range. Check bait shops or make your own out of PVC pipe slightly smaller than legal. If the oyster fits through the pipe, pitch it back.

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7. Milk Crate. These sit in the water easily and keep your oysters cold and wet. Standard milk crates can hold roughly 60 oysters. Or three really great date nights.

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8. Dry Clothes. When you are done, you will welcome the change in clothes.

9. Scrub brush. A strong hard bristle scrub brush will get rid of mud and barnacles at your vehicle before you start shucking.

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10. Flathead Screw Driver and Oyster Shucking Knife. Here is how you shuck an oyster using a screwdriver. Do this before graduating to an oyster shucking knife and save yourself a trip to the emergency room for stitches.
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Sure it’s much easier to buy your oysters, but you reduce the manly factor significantly and where’s the fun in that? Go getcha some.

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Tremendous Top Ten: 10 Must Haves When Field Dressing A Mile from the Truck

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The other day when I killed the goblin pig, I got to reassess my ability to clean animals in the field. Here are Ten Tremendous items needed for butchering a long way from camp. If you can drive your pickup to it, then most of this is irrelevant and you are docked 2 manly points.

1. Havalon Piranta. When I was trapping in high school, I used many different things to skin animals with besides an actual pocketknife. Box cutters, X acto knives and hospital scalpels were some of my favorite tools until I discovered the Havalon Piranta. Bright orange, light weight and always sharp due to the ability to snap on a new blade when sharpness is in doubt. It’s perfect for backcountry butchery. I’ve cleaned dove, ducks, deer, pigs, squirrels and bear with mine and have only used three blades. 20131214-172009.jpg

2. With SOG’s Hand Axe I can get through a difficult shin bone or sternum easily, and far quicker than I can with a knife. I took the head off the goblin pig in two whacks, and this hatchet really fits my hand well. Lightweight, it doesn’t add a lot of poundage to your pack and has multiple uses outside of meat hacking.

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3. Latex gloves. After reading this, this, and strangely this it is just too easy to throw in some gloves to clean your beast. Plus, when you are done, you can eat a hamburger without it tasting like blood and guts.

4. Meat Hauling Pack. Simply put, backpacks sold at REI weren’t designed for hauling dead animals. The owner of Mystery Ranch built a solid reputation in the military community for his Dana Design packs. These Bozeman, Montana bags are rugged, can stand up to abuse, and do well with bulky items. This summer I loaded mine with 50 pound feed sacks and climbed stairs at the hospital where I work in preparation for an elk hunt in Colorado. Security was a bit nervous. Nonetheless, I put about 70 pounds of pig in my Crew Cab and it did admirably. 

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You can see how the Crew Cab opens up and lets you strap in an otherwise awkward load.

5. Pillow Cases. As you can see above, this is where I dropped the ball. I never did replace the old pillow cases I used in Alaska on my bear hunt. When I got my first quarter off the pig, I had to lay the meat directly on the limb to let it cool. Had I remembered some pillow cases, my meat would have stayed a lot cleaner, as well as my pack. You can buy specifically designed meat bags, but they are usually at least twice the amount of pillow cases at WalMart. Only use bags that can breathe, never used water proof bags, they trap all of the heat potentially spoiling your reward.

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Temperatures were in the 20s, so I hung the meat on some low hanging branches.

6. Paracord. Tie your meat to a tree limb, tie legs back, hang the animal up while you gut it, paracord has multiple uses. Muy bueno.

7. Hand Sanitizer. In a pinch, the alcohol varieties can be used to start a fire. Plus, cleanliness.

8. Zip Lock Bags. I love organ meat, so I try to save hearts and livers.

9. Head Lamp. This one has yet to disappoint.  But make sure you have some batteries with you so you don’t run out of light. I used my Petzl pretty steady for 18 months before I needed to change batteries.

10. Medical Kit with Multiple Skin Closure Methods. So midway through the goblin pig’s butchering, I did this:

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Once at the house I did some vigorous cleansing.

As you can see, I bled like a stuck pig. Initially, I tried to close the wound with a band aid. The skin was wet with mine and pig’s blood, so the sticky on the band aid failed. For small cuts like this, Dermabond works well. It closes your skin and offers a decent chance at keeping bad little bugs out. Its pricey, but its fine for annoying cuts that aren’t life threatening, but quite possibly a threat to your excursion. I then wrapped my finger with sterile gauze and used silk tape (like the kind used to wrap sprained ankles) as an extra barrier. Several varieties of band aids, sterile gauze, silk tape, and Dermabond will give you decent skin closure system.

These are ten tremendous items to have when cleaning  an animal where it died.  Do you have any items you find indispensable after the kill? I’d like to hear your preferences.

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Ready for the Freezer