I once mentioned to a southerner that in Iowa where I live, mourning doves are protected songbirds.* “Ain’t worth livin’ there,” he said. Every year, on September 1, I think he might be right. Unless I manage a trip out of state, I am stuck on the sidelines for the biggest opening day of the season, rooting for all of you who are lucky enough to live where doves can be hunted.

Just because I don’t get to shoot doves every year doesn’t mean I don’t think about dove guns in August.

While I prefer two barreled guns for upland hunting, I don’t like getting caught by a suicidal bird bearing down on me when I’ve got a break-action gun broken open to reload.

And, I love pumps for waterfowling but in the dove field, working the slide pulls me off target for follow-ups.

That leaves semiautomatics, especially gas guns. Their soft recoil, rapid follow-ups and ease of reloading make them perfect for the job. In this picture, taken five years ago in Argentina, I’m shooting a 20 gauge Beretta 391 with an Improved Cylinder choke tube, which I would call an ideal dove gun.

You may notice the bird boy has the look of someone who has seen plenty of Yankees shoot and is not over-awed by yours truly. Most of the doves were high and tricky that day, flying above the treetops in twos and threes. However, not long after this picture was taken, a huge bunch came very low and fast over the stubble. I shot three with three shots, then thumbed two more shells into the gun and took another pair before the flock passed out of range. ** The jaded bird boy blurted something like: “i Holy *@&!”

Frankly, I was pretty impressed myself.

Good luck to all of you who are opening the season Tuesday. What will you be taking to the dove field?

_*we owe the dove’s ongoing protected status to in Iowa to former governor Tom Vilsack, who, back in 2001, indicated to sportsmen he would sign a dove hunting bill, only to veto it a few days later. Vilsack is now your Secretary of Agriculture, by the way.

** If you were wondering, we ate a lot of grilled dove while we were down there, and I brought back a big cooler-full.