By Chris Dorsey, Forbes contributor
Happy opening day of dove season, America.
Across the country, millions of bird hunters celebrate this unofficial holiday of sorts by heading to sunflower patches, milo fields, and watering holes to test their wingshooting skills on one of the hunting world’s toughest targets: the mourning dove that skedaddles at some 50 miles per hour—without a tailwind. If hunters are successful, there will be breast fillets aplenty to stuff with jalapeno slivers and wrap in bacon before grilling.
Dove season is the warmup to upland bird seasons that will open across southern Canada and the northern states later in September and October. There will be Hungarian partridge and sharptailed grouse to test dog and man across the prairies, ruffed grouse and woodcock hunters of New England and the Great Lakes states will poke and prod thickets in the hopes of getting a glimpse of flushing birds that are more frequently heard than seen while there’s still a heavy curtain of leaves on the trees.
Come October the South Dakota prairies will resemble animated pumpkin patches as thousands of orange-clad pheasant hunters descend on that state, pumping $220 million into its economy. Then it will be the turn of the southern and western quail hunters to get their pointers back to work finding coveys of bobwhites and the western species of quail.
Cooler mornings bring a stirring in bird dogs and their owners, a hint that it’s once again time for that most celebrated time of the year—bird season. Dogs that were overfed and lazy in the off-season suddenly work off extra pounds (along with their owners) and they tune up their skills in deciphering the scent trails left by America’s menagerie of pheasants, grouse, quail, and myriad other upland gamers.
To a devout bird hunter (and there are roughly 2 million of them out of America’s 15 million total hunters), a new hunting season is an excuse to upgrade gear with the latest and greatest designs from a wide assortment of premium brands. Here, then, is a sampling of some of the best new entries…just in time for bird season:
Tom Beckbe Strap Vest
If you’re an upland bird hunter or a waterfowler, you know this company for its handsome and rugged designs. Their new strap vest delivers on the brand promise to be as functional as it is good looking. I’ve long favored strap vests because you can layer under them for about any temperatures and weather conditions, and they allow for maximum mobility. Too, when you’re hiking with a shotgun all day, it often doesn’t take many layers to keep yourself warm, so less is more in many cases. The vest shell is made of durable waxed shelter cloth, has adjustable shoulder straps made with no stretch cotton webbing, and a rear gamebag with two side pouches.
Tom Beckbe Tensaw Jacket
One of this venerable company’s most popular products, the Tensaw Jacket is the ideal blend of functionality and rugged good looks. This classic cover is made with a durable waxed shelter cloth shell that gets even better looking with time as it forms a rich patina. Inside, the Tensaw features a comfortable cotton liner, and the collar is rimmed with Bedford corduroy for extra protection from the cold. The bi-swing back and gusseted underarms also provide for a full range of motion when shooting. Like many of the Beckbe products, the Tensaw Jacket is as at home in the field as it is on the town.
Tom Beckbe Leather Gun Sleeve
This classic beauty is made with full-grain leather exterior with a padded, synthetic fleece-lined interior. The top entry secures tightly with two snap closures and a buckle cinch. The 50-inch case comes with an adjustable leather shoulder strap that attaches to D-rings along the sleeve’s spine in shortened and regular configurations. The sleeve also has a zippered utility pocket for storing choke tubes and other incidentals.
Tom Beckbe Field Hat
There isn’t a bird hunter alive who doesn’t look better in one of these classic hats. The waxed shelter cloth with 2.5-inch wired brim and leather band looks as good as the hat feels. Tape up the small vents, turn the hat over, and fill it with water and you’ve got a portable dog watering dish as well. If the dog doesn’t finish the water, turn it over on your head and cool down during an early season jaunt through the fields or woods.