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Archive for Sunday, September 25, 2005

Commentary: Decoys come in handy at dove-hunting area

September 25, 2005

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— You could call Truscott a wide spot in the dusty West Texas road north of Benjamin, but it really doesn't qualify as a wide spot. Benjamin is the local wide spot, population about 260.

This is wild-game country, which is how Tom and Scott Walker wound up here. The Walkers are XXL-sized Fort Worth brothers who run a weekend hunting operation called TxDoveHunt.com.

The business name was Tom Walker's idea. In the real world, he sets up Internet sites. When your business name is the same as your Web address, it's easy for potential customers to find you, even if they have trouble locating Truscott.

TxDoveHunt.com doesn't have a theme song. If they had one, it would probably be the Muddy Waters 1950s blues classic "I Got My Mojo Working."

When we hunted on the morning of Sept. 9, Tom Walker placed two Mojo dove decoys and a half-dozen regular dove decoys in an open area. With little cover except for a few sunflowers, we hunkered along a barbed-wire fence and watched.

Mourning doves were trickling out of a nearby roost, headed for feeding grounds. A few were landing in the harvested milo field where we were set up. Most birds were just passing through, headed for distant fields that offered easier pickings.

The field we were hunting had been hammered by 40 hunters on opening weekend. The Walkers were saving another hot field for 25 hunters expected that afternoon. There weren't many doves flying over our spot, but the birds that came by homed in on the Mojo doves.

The Mojo is a battery-operated, spinning-wing motion decoy. Mojos were first made as motion duck decoys for waterfowl hunters. Lately, dove hunters have been raving about Mojo doves.

The animated wings don't flap like a real bird, but the spinning motion alternates a dark and light side of each wing, creating motion that apparently looks good to doves.

"If I have kids or inexperienced hunters in a group, I like to set the decoys up close to them," Walker said. "There's no doubt in my mind that the motion decoys will influence doves. They can see the motion from a long way, and they'll change their flight pattern to come to the decoys, often landing right beside them."

I'm neither a kid nor inexperienced, but I like to shoot doves with a .410 shotgun and 21â2-inch shells. The little shells pack just half an ounce of shot. That's half the load I recommend for hunters who shoot 20-or 12-gauge shotguns.

When you shoot a .410, you quickly learn that a miniature shotgun cannot perform like a 20-gauge with a full ounce of shot dispensed in a dense pattern. There's no margin for error. With a .410, close shots are good shots. Long shots are pretty much a waste of time.

On the morning I hunted with Tom Walker, I watched bird after bird adjust its flight pattern at least enough to fly over the decoys. As Walker predicted, many birds tried to land within a few yards of the Mojo.

As a result, I filled a 15-bird limit. There were relatively few doves using that particular field, and I'm certain that I would have fallen far short of a limit without the decoy.

The Mojo dove costs about $50 and requires either a 6-volt battery or four AA batteries, depending on the model. I prefer to hunt in an area with so many doves that you don't need a decoy. Sadly, most dove hunters never have that luxury. For them, a $50 spinning-wing decoy is a good investment.

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