The field of dreams, where everyday is opening day.
Ask any seasoned dove hunter what to look for to find concentrations of birds and you will hear three constants: food, water and trees.
Food varies from sunflowers to millet and grain fields. Water will be stock ponds, irrigation ditches or mud puddles. Trees can be juniper, oak or cottonwood.
In my 25+ years dove hunting I’ve learned 2 out of 3 will bring birds home. All 3 on the same property will bring a lights out experience that will keep your pot and your freezer full. And your gun barrel hot to the touch.
Empire 540 is that property.
Opening day I started at Jackson Lake 420, I saw and shot a few birds early but it became obvious that they couldn’t get through the firing line of the public land for me to fill my bag. At lunch I decided to make a move and canceled my afternoon reservation and packed up and looked at the map.
25 minutes later I was greeted at 540 by doves milling about and sitting on the power line above me. As I drove in I saw more than a few sitting on the trees so I decided to set up there. It wasn’t very long before I got my first shot, and when I did the tree line absolutely exploded with 40-50 doves going every direction possible! I quickly drained another, collected my birds and hustled back to my hide. The next few hours was a constant stream of doves returning. Singles, pairs and small groups. I filled my limit in short order and immediately booked another reservation for the weekend.
Sunday morning came and did not disappoint. I arrived at 730 with high expectations for an epic hunt. I set up in roughly the same spot and within minutes I was killing birds. Something out of a dream or you would see on TV. Birds landing while I was still shooting, never more than 10 minutes between action. At 9 I did a count and had 12 in hand, even with some incredibly poor shooting on my part. The next 3 came quickly as I was low on ammo. I just sat and watched birds pour in for another 30 minutes while I smiled from ear to ear.
If your opening weekend didn’t go as planned, and are looking for some more birds for dove and dumpling stew. Give Empire a shot! I left more than enough for all. Fair warning, the ground cover is thick and recovery is challenging so pick your shots wisely.
I also have it on good authority this place is a sleeper for ducks + geese and is far and away our least used property so there shouldn’t be much competition for reservations.
Happy hunting all!!