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Lone Star Dove Hunting

This Texas tradition is as fun as wingshooting comes.

Lone Star Dove Hunting

Testing out the Yildiz Legacy HP over/under shotgun from Academy Sports + Outdoors. (Photo courtesy of Academy Sports + Outdoors)

Sitting far south in Texas Hill Country lies the town of Uvalde. As the vulture flies, you can be in Mexico in a few miles. In this brushy landscape lies rattlesnakes, whitetails, wild pigs, and the main reason for my trip here in the heat of September: doves. 

Dove Dynasty

Southern Texas boasts some of the best dove hunting in the nation, and around here, opening day is very much a holiday. It is a time to get the whole family together, shoot a generous 15-bird/per hunter limit, and fire up the grill. I was here courtesy of Academy Sports + Outdoors, a household name in this great state, to test Yildiz shotguns—a Turkish gun manufacturer that boasts a line of over/unders exclusive to Academy Sports + Outdoors—on the fast-flying birds.

Dove hunting with the Yildiz Legacy HP 20 Gauge over/under shotgun
The Yildiz Legacy HP shotgun is comfortable for lightly clothed early season dove hunting. (Photo courtesy of Academy Sports + Outdoors)

Dozens of us split up into different trucks in the blistering Texas sun. The mostly flat landscape opens up to tall hills, covered with mesquite. The ashy landscape is full of juniper, the occasional red yucca—and plenty of rattlesnakes. Moving 20 miles south to Batesville we saw seas of cotton fields, blowing white puffs in the highway wind. 

The field we arrived at was a cut sunflower field that intersected a flightpath from their roost in the brush of nearby ranches. They visit in number mid-afternoon to feed before heading to water and returning to their roost. We separated around the field along long brush lines, facing the wall of mesquite trees in anticipation. Birds flew over by the dozen, with the wind at their back they dove the cut field like a small grey jet, swerving past lead shot. 

Dove hunting in Texas
Fast-flying doves offer hunters a chance to test their shotgunning abilities (Photo courtesy of Academy Sports + Outdoors)

The Dove Gun

I was shooting 7½ shot out of a beautiful Yildiz Legacy HP 20 Gauge over/under, exclusive from Academy. This affordable over/under falls just under $500, but the elegant grade II Turkish walnut would have you convinced otherwise. In fact, when I first took a look at the gun, I could not believe the price point. 

The 20-gauge comes in at a mere 5.73 lbs, swings fast and points like a steady laser with its fiber-optic front sight, which was essential for these jet-like doves. It is chambered in 3-inch and features an alloy barrel with a blued finish. On the receiver, you will find an engraved brace of quail with some nice scrolling that adds another touch of elegance. 

Yildiz Legacy HP over/under shotgun
The Yildiz Legacy HP from Academy is a beautiful over/under shotgun at an affordable price. (Photo courtesy of Academy Sports + Outdoors)

The Yildiz Legacy HP is bargain for the money, and at that price point you don’t feel as bad actually working the over/under hard in the field. It comes with a full range of five chokes, so you can put it to a variety of tasks. It is also an affordable option to buy your kids who want to start trap shooting, turkey hunting or to join mom and dad on their annual dove hunt. 

In the blazing Texas sun, I ran several boxes of rounds through this Turkish made O/U without a hiccup and hit my limit of 15 birds in under an hour. I took some time to watch the other shooters, as swarms of doves continued to zip over the mesquite, seemingly never-ending in their rapid flights. It was action-packed, fun-as-can-be shooting that was a great way to open the fall season. 

Dove Country Dogs

The outfitter, Landon Lancaster of Brewster Bird Hunts, had a brace of Labradors who were picking up doves in the blistering heat. I couldn’t have imagined running my own Lab in this Texas sun, but these dogs have been born and raised here and worked efficiently and smooth. It was truly a sight to see.

“I think part of it at least is genetics,” Lancaster told me. “Getting dogs that hunt in areas like this. That plays a role in it for sure. But my dogs sleep outside, mainly because I want them to stay acclimated to the weather and I try to work them all summer long. A lot of people work in the morning or in the evening when it is not as hot, but I will work them in 105-degree heat for a short window of time, but you have to really watch them and be careful.”

Black Labrador retriever hunting doves
Special attention is taken to keep desert dove dogs safe. (Photo courtesy of Academy Sports + Outdoors)

This heat can be a serious challenge to a thick-coated Labrador, and with 15 bird bag limits, Lancaster has to be picky about what he sends his dogs on. “I try to get in a middle of a field, while hunters are spread out on the brush line. From here, my dogs can see everything going on and get a good mark on any sailing birds. When the birds sail into the thick stuff or far from a person to get to, that is when I typically send them. You have to be selective about retrieves in this heat.”

Dove Delights

With a mountain of doves for the day, we headed back to the lodge. We spent the evening cleaning hundreds of birds while sharing hunting stories and laughs. A professional cook local to the area prepared dove wonton, crispy tenders and of course, poppers. All were delicious after a hot day spent in the field. She also prepared elk tenderloin right over an open fire as the main course. 

Dove hunting is a Texas tradition, stitched into in the landscape just as much as the mesquite, wild pigs and slithering rattlers. It is a tradition I am honored to have shared with one good group of people in the Lone Star state while putting a Turkish gun through its paces. 

Cutting up dove meat
What could be better to end an enjoyable dove hunt than to indulge in a delicious dove dinner. (Photo courtesy of Academy Sports + Outdoors)
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