I received an e-mail from the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission the other day reminding me that Dove season starts on September 2nd of this year. Consequently, this caused my mind to turn to fond memories of former opening days on which the doves were so numerous that the field I was hunting sounded more like a small arms war than a dove shoot and my shoulder was so sore at the end of the day that I could barely carry my shotgun back to the truck. Now, that magical time of year is at hand once again and my trigger finger is getting itchy just thinking about it!
However, despite the fact that I use a 12 ga. shotgun with #7 ½ shot and an Improved Cylinder or Modified choke, I still have an inordinate amount of trouble hittin’ the damn critters but, judging by the number of shots that are fired at any single, passing, dove over an actively hunted field, so do other hunters! Yet, there always seems to be that one fellow who has somehow magically figured out the correct amount of lead and thus, he seems to be able to down at least two birds with every three shots which always frustrates the fool out of me! However, if you ask them about how they are so successful at hitting a target the size of a tennis ball moving at just under the speed of light, all you ever get is a vague answer like “I just put the barrel in front of the bird and pull the trigger” or “If you are not hitting them, then you are probably shooting behind them”. Thanks y’all; I do appreciate the advice but I am afraid that it is not particularly helpful!
So, just how much do you lead one of Nature’s little rocket powered aviators when in the field? Well, I tried to tackle the answer to that question myself using mathematics but discovered that I did not have the necessary skills. Thus, I then turned to logic and I decided (erroneously) that since the shot is launched from shotgun barrel at roughly 1200 ft. per second, then it must take only a fraction of a second for the shot to cover the 60 ft. to 120 ft. to the dove passing in front of me and thus, it shouldn’t require more than a foot of so of lead. However, after experimenting repeatedly with differing lengths of lead, I still couldn’t seem to find the magic number. So, I did what I always do in these situations; I searched the Web! But, I after what seemed like hours chasing down leads, at the end of it all, I still had nothing definitive to go on.
Then, I learned about Emmitt Nelson! Thank God for Emmitt Nelson!!! For those of you who are not familiar with this fine gentleman, in addition to being an avid bird hunter, Emmitt was trained and employed as a mechanical engineer. In addition, like many of us, he too missed a lot of shots. Therefore, feeling frustration similar to my own I’m sure, Emmitt decided to employ his facility with mathematics to determine just how much lead a hunter should hold depending on the size and weight of the shot he is shooting, the speed at which that shot exits the barrel, the fact that the shot slows down over distance traveled, and last but not least, the distance to the target and the speed at which it is traveling. Thus, after somehow magically juggling all of the numerous variables, Emmitt developed a set of tables which he calls Lead-O-Tables that explicitly display the nearly exact amount of feet in front of the bird the hunter should hold for various sizes of shot traveling at the common muzzle velocities for targets flying at different distances and at different speeds. Thus, to use Emmitt’s Lead-O-Tables, you first locate your shot size and the closest muzzle velocity to your round he has listed and then follow the Miles per Hour column down to the estimated speed of the target and then follow that row across to the estimated distance to the target and poof; the correct amount of lead is listed in feet! Finally!!!