Dove Days

We Montanans don't have nearly as rich a tradition of hunting doves as our Southern brothers. Our birds just don't stick around very long once the September 1 opener arrives. A cold front typically pushes them south. But this year gentle weather has remained around long enough to chase the winged devils a few times. And there's nothing like taking the kids out in the back field for an evening shoot.
"Hollywood" Ellis McKean takes up his post at the base of a large cottonwood tree. His job: to keep an eye out to the left for incoming doves, and to shoot any collared doves he might see with his single-shot .410.
Twin brothers Ellis and Merlin McKean pose with our awesome yellow Lab, Willow. Because exotic collared doves aren't considered game animals, they can be shot without a hunting license. That means the 9-year-old twins -- who won't reach legal hunting age here in Montana for another 3 years -- can shoot them without consequence. The short story: we didn't see any collared doves.
I finally bag a bird after a few spectacular misses.
Willow is ready for the next retrieve. One problem with our mild weather: we still have way too many mosquitoes, and most of them find prime habitat on Willow's muzzle.
Meanwhile, Iris McKean and her friend Meara Johnsrud show off a bird that Meara's dad Chris bagged. For the record, that was the only bird that Chris bagged.
The first pose is way too stoic for 6-year-old girls. Here, they goof it up.
I have only one rule when I take my kids hunting: They have to have fun. We take a break from doves to do some hay-bale jumping.
Finally, the sun sets on another Montana afternoon. We've bagged a few doves, but more important, we've showed our kids that hunting is fun. They can't wait for next year. Willow and I can't wait for a killing frost to knock down these mosquitoes.