Dove Hunting Starts Season Off Right
The little confederate gray mourning dove does more to kick off the fall hunting social season for us good old boys than a new shotgun, pit-cooked barbecue, hush puppies and a longneck Budweiser could. Although, the aforementioned help immensely and, most of the time, are included.
Dove hunting season has become a major event in the South. I should rephrase that as the opening few days of the season usher in the real stuff, and then everyone settles into their specialty.
Bird hunters concentrate on where the coveys are. Deer hunters start putting up their tree stands, scouting for rubs and limbering up the bows or sighting in black-powder guns. Duck hunters begin cleaning up decoys and getting duck boats ready in preparation for the main event - a cool front and the first early, green-wing teal.
But all that comes later.
First of all, we've got to go dove hunting. Dove hunts take place in different ways, from the fine-linen, top-of-the-line, sophisticated event to the out-behind-the-barn, down-close-to-the-creek, next-to-the-freshly-cut-cornfield hunts that were my early introduction to the fine art of dove shooting.
No two opening days are the same. And yet, if you've been to one, you've almost been to them all.
There is a lot of preparation for today's more regimented effort. Fields are planted early with millet, milo or corn to entice this wily bird to visit. Some of the more successful hunts I've experienced were shot over sunflower fields, but they take a lot of work, and deer play havoc with the young plants.
One season, in a field that I leased and planted in sunflowers, deer ate the entire field of four-inch sprouts almost overnight. But hey, it's part of the game.
And then there was the classic - a late season hunt over, believe it or not, a hog lot. A couple of inches of snow had fallen the night before the last day of the season, and you know how it is. Snow on the ground, last day, we've got to hunt somewhere, and the hog lot was suggested.
Doves will come to any kind of corn and so will hogs. Corn, hogs, doves and a few eager dove hunters provide for an interesting scenario. I don't know if the statute of limitations has run out on that unusual day, so, enough said.
I think I've found the best of the dove hunting world because a few years ago I joined the Southern Pines Shooting Club, a group of good old boys who are dedicated to hunting doves all season. Led by the capable Randy Green - who's president of this austere, eclectic crowd - they hunt every Wednesday and Saturday come rain, or as might happen, snow in the later season.
The shooting club is great, but I've also been lucky to be invited on other hunts that have been spectacular. My good friend Squire Edwin Clapp, from Siler City, has a hunt that is a major event and is looked forward to from one season to another. At his cabin by the lake, you can count on an unparalleled shoot and some of the best barbecue chicken this side of Atlanta.
Another super time afield was last year when my good Yankee friend, Rich Warters, invited me to a sporting event right out of an old "Dallas" TV series episode.
Rich is an aficionado of rare shotguns, great bird dogs and outstanding double malt Scotch. Needless to say, with all those pluses in his corner, we became close friends.
The hunt was in the northeast part of the state put on by a longtime supporter of bird-hunting dogs. In the past, he has allowed bird-dog and retriever trials to be held on his farm. Early in the dove season, as a kick-off to what these dogs are all about, he throws a dove spectacular that should be written up in Sporting Classics.
Last year we participated. This year we hope to again. And like untold -thousands of dove hunters across the South, we will join the noble pursuit of an amazing little Southern bird that means so much to us.
I just hope Rich has gotten his invitation. Maybe I should call him.
Contact Tom Bryant by e-mail at email@example.com.
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