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Even a broken shotgun can't stop a great dove opener

Doves coming to an Edward's County waterhole.
Doves coming to an Edward's County waterhole. The Wichita Eagle

Trey Turner swings on an opening evening dove, using a borrowed shotgun. Three hunters got their limits of 15 doves each, while sharing two weapons.EDWARDS COUNTY – Basketball, football and bullriding may be great spectator sports

. Dove hunting, is not, but that’s what Trey Turner was doing with only 45 minutes of shooting light remaining on Sunday’s opening of dove season.

The 20 gauge pump he’d brought was out of commission with an empty shell jammed in the chamber after Trey, of St. John, had shot his first bird.

No problem. Turner shot his 15th and limit-filling bird with a minute or two to spare, while his gun remained jammed.

The hunting was that good.

Hunting waterholes in the rolling pastures of Edwards County has become  a Turner family tradition I’ve been lucky enough to be invited to many times. It’s a long drive from home, and worth every minute and gallon of expensive gas.

This year Tom Turner, Trey’s father, had assembled a group of nine hunters ranging from seven to…well, much more than seven years-old. Trey’s girlfriend, Amber Stimatze was along, as was his brother, Tyler. Bill Eberhardt, of Augusta, brought sons Dalton, 14, Ethan, 7, and friend Jack Wirths, 14.Tom Turner, right, loads a plate for a pre-hunt picnic, with Bill Eberhardt, center, and Tyler Turner.Rather than straight to the waterholes made by solar pumps, we first spent a half-hour breaking a few clay targets and eating a picnic supper of hot links and chips.

I was assigned a waterhole with Trey  and Amber. We set-up in a line about 40 yards long, with Amber at one end and me at the other. Trey jabbed a spinning-wing decoy at the edge of the waterhole nearby.

The first hour was a bit slow, though we could hear Tom Turner and the two teens banging away to the northeast. At 7 pm I had five or six doves and Amber about the same. Trey had one, and a shell jammed in the action of an ancient Winchester pump.

But then the birds started to come, and come and come and come. Most came from the north, following a ridge to the south end of the pond where they’d cut sharply towards the decoy. Many landed just out of range. Others passed over knee-high ragweed, where I opted not to drop birds since we didn’t have a dog.

No matter.

Even being selective on my shots, downed birds added up quickly. At 7:22 pm I dropped #15 in the pond, and handed Trey my side-by-side Hatfield 20 gauge. Also being selective in his shots, not taking any too close or too far, he dropped nine more doves in about 20 minutes. By then Amber was limited, too, and handed Trey her 28 gauge.Amber Stimatze finds one of 15 doves she shot with a 28 gauge on opening day in Edwards County.The next 20 minutes the doves came from the prairie in nearly non-stop numbers, from one to a dozen in a bunch. I sat nearby and photographed the action while Amber marked downed birds, and handed Trey more of little red shells about the size of tubes of Chapstick.

Trey passed up at least a dozen easy shots as we counted and recounted his pile of doves, and searched for birds not recovered.

Legal shooting time ended about 8:06, and Trey had his 15 birds with several minutes to spare. It was a very good hunt, and Trey needing to borrow shotguns added another half-hour of enjoyment, and a “remember the time” memory.

You know, if we got to the pond a little earlier next year, and the birds are really flying, I’m wondering if all three of us could shoot our limits with just one shotgun between us?

Probably but I’m guessing that’s something we’ll never know, and that old shotgun is something Trey, who has a safe full of better equipment at home, won’t be carrying on a dove hunt again.

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