Unless you’re lucky enough to live in one of the states with an early September opener for grouse and other upland birds, Thursday’s dove season opener marks – for most of us – the traditional September kick-off to the fall bird hunting season. Both my dogs, however, are staying in their kennels this week.


Why? For a whole host of reasons I’ve never been a big fan of taking dogs along on the dove opener. I think one of the worst things you can do to a young dog or a pup–especially one that hasn’t had much exposure to gunfire–is to take him or her into a hot, dry, dusty dove field, surround them with strangers blazing away on all sides and then expect them to retrieve your birds. Not to mention, all the while as everyone up and down the line continues to shoot and birds are falling all over the place. The chaos of the typical opening weekend dove field is no place for a young dog.

Having said that, however, I usually do take my old retriever along on opening week hunts. She’s eight and therefore knows the game, and since I generally hunt alone and live in an arid region where I target mostly small stock tanks, windmill ponds and water holes rather than large feed fields, I don’t have to worry about such issues. But this year, even the old lady is staying home. With my part of the country still in the throes of an epic drought and heat wave that shows no signs of easing up, it’s just not worth taking the chance. This year, thanks to the heat and the dangers of contaminated water,I can’t even let my dog cool off between retrieves with a swim because either there’s no water for a swim or what water there is looks like a bad Petri dish culture.

So with even early-morning temperatures staying in the 90s and late-afternoon hunts promising to be well above 100, my dogs are staying home and I’ll be picking up my own birds. What about yours? Agree? Disagree?