Doves, teal and geese challenge best of wingshooters

I’ve recently been enjoying some friendly trapshooting competition every Wednesday night at Springbrook Gun Club near Omro, as well as a traveling tournament every Sunday. Although I’ve shot trap a few times in the past, I never got serious about it until this year. My good friend, Dave Gawarosky, talked me into joining the league (as he talks me into most other semi-crazy things), and then I took the plunge by buying my first trap gun, a red, white and blue Browning BT99.

Last Sunday, I shot my first 23. As a teammate told me, “You’re starting to figure it out.” Then on Wednesday night, our last night of leagues, I shot two 23s and a 19. The simplicity and long sight radius (34-inch barrel and 1 more inch with an extended choke tube) of the trap gun does make a difference.

A young teammate, Eric Shew, had four rounds to make up. He asked to use my BT99 on the last round. I shot a few photos and even video of him and fellow teammate Isaiah Skaug on their last 25. Mosquitoes swarming around the lights began to eat me alive, so I briefly went into the clubhouse. When I came out, Eric ducked my gaze.

“How’d you do?” I asked. He flashed a wide grin. He’d tied my best with a 23. Not bad for a high school senior.

Growing up, I was never a good wingshot, probably because I didn’t know I was cross-eye dominant, shooting a shotgun right-handed when my left eye was dominant. As a full-time outdoors writer in Iowa, I learned many wingshooting tips from a federal ammunition shooting instructor. Ignoring the front sight (the “miss-me bead,” as the instructor called it), keeping the barrel swinging and shooting instinctively without much thought are all pointers in this challenging game.

They are all leading up to one point: hitting live birds on the wing.

Clays games, whether trap, skeet or sporting clays, certainly will improve your success on game birds.

Probably the most difficult bird of all to bag is the mourning dove. These aerial acrobats are strong in flight, can dip and dive, and are small targets that can make even the best wingshot curse like a sailor. The statewide season opens Sept. 1 and continues through Nov. 29.

Mourning doves are one of the most abundant of all birds, and seldom live more than a few years because of their many enemies. A full 60 percent of doves do not live beyond one year, so hunting has little effect on their overall population. About 41 million doves are harvested each year by hunters, but other sources of mortality are four to five times more than hunting mortality, according to an online Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources fact sheet.

Their delicious breasts are dark meat and make a tasty treat when put on the grill with a strip of bacon.

Don’t forget to get your free HIP registration to hunt doves and other migratory birds like ducks and geese. You need non-toxic shot (generally steel) if you hunt doves on public land. You need a small game license (or patron license) to hunt doves, but you do not need federal or state duck stamps, as you do to hunt waterfowl. Shooting hours are a half-hour before sunrise to sunset and the daily bag limit is 15 doves.

Next up in our fall bird lineup is the fast-flying and small teal. The early teal season is Sept. 1-7. Blue- and green-winged teal are legal targets. Duck identification is crucial, so study up before you go afield.

The daily limit for teal is six birds. Please note that the early teal season opens at sunrise and ends at sunset.

Finishing out our early wingshooting trio is the Canada goose. The early season is Sept. 1-15, with shooting hours from a half-hour before sunrise to sunset. The daily bag limit is five.

Although the state’s waterfowl regulations book lists 14 variations of non-toxic shot, most available in local stores include steel, and variations of tungsten and bismuth. Lead shot is illegal for waterfowl hunting. If you shoot steel, a modified choke tube generally works best.

A special youth waterfowl season for those age 15 and younger is Sept. 15-16, with shooting hours set at a half-hour before sunrise to sunset.

Be sure you carefully read all waterfowl regulations before going afield, as they can be a little complex, especially for beginners.

If you apply what you learned on the trapshooting field to your hunting trips, you’ll bring home more birds and enjoy some delicious meals. Good luck and stay safe.

Ross Bielema is a freelance writer from New London and owner of Wolf River Concealed Carry LLC. Contact him at