Afternoon Shoot: Spectacular Hunt, Better People
Good night nurse, it was hot! It was the kind of early September heat that crawls under the skin and radiates misery.
A white-hot sun was directly overhead, bearing down mercilessly on the poor souls trying to find a little shade on the tree line.
We were dove hunting, and we were having a ball.
The Southern Pines Shooting Club had arranged the hunt, and my good friend Rich Warters and my son, Tom, had joined me for opening day of the season. After a tasty brunch held at the farm of Bill Cameron, we convoyed to our hunting destination, a massive field of cut corn in Hoke County on the other side of Raeford.
We were with Charlie Rowe, Steve Dana and Greg Lyne, and Randy Greene, president of this outstanding organization. The club has been in business since the early ’50s and always provides good hunts for its members.
Before we left for the shoot, Randy warned us to be extremely careful because rattlesnakes had been sighted in the woods bordering the cornfield.
As we were setting up for the hunt, I reminded Tom not to get too far back in the woods. “You might get on a snake.” Looking for shade, he was edging as close to a big oak as he could. Rich was on the other side trying to do the same thing.
I was sitting on the back of the Xterra under the raised rear door that provided a little cover.
Other hunters were lined up around the perimeter of the cornfield. A few hardy souls were venturing out to the center to set up blinds to be ready when the birds started flying.
“Birds aren’t gonna fly in this heat,” Rich said. “I bet they won’t move until four or five o’clock.”
I passed out much appreciated ice-cold water bottles from the cooler.
“How do y’all stand this heat?” Tom asked, taking a bottle and rubbing it across his forehead. “It’s 20 degrees cooler up at Boone, and we consider that hot.”
“Yeah, but you don’t have doves up there. As your grandmama says, you’ve got to take the bad with the good.”
We laughed, but just our luck, we heard the first ominous rumble of thunder back toward Raeford. Thunderheads had been building all morning and were now moving our way. We could hear a few shots as other hunters around the point started trying for the early doves flying down the middle of the field.
“I believe the storm’s gonna get here before the birds,” Rich said, and he was right.
Lightning started popping a couple miles away. As the rain moved closer and lightning became more frequent, one strike hit in the trees close to the barn.
That was when I suggested that we head home so we could hunt another day. I had had one close call with lightning while dove hunting and I didn’t want another.
“It’s fine with me,” Rich said. “Don’t forget we’ve still got that hunt on Wellons’ farm Monday.”
On Labor Day morning, Tom and I met Rich at his home in Pinehurst, and we left for the Wellons farm on the other side of Lillington. Bob Wellons is the epitome of a North Carolina gentleman planter. His farm is like a picture out of Southern Living and a real pleasure to the eye.
A gravel two-lane road curves around a small lake; and when we arrived, about a hundred Canada geese were browsing the green grass close to the shore.
The drive forked at the horse barn, and in the yard next to the barn, long tables underneath a big white tent had been set for lunch. The food was perfect for this outing. We enjoyed barbecue, frogmore stew, baked beans, slaw and giant chocolate cookies. Yum!
After lunch Rich met with the managers of the hunt, Jerry Raynor and Larry Wade. It was suggested that we go ahead to the sunflower field so we would be ready for the early flight.
Larry drove us to our stands in a Jeep rigged for safari with two seats above dog boxes and a bench seat hanging off the front. We rode by Wellons’ home on the way. It was a picturesque two-story white house in a setting an artist couldn’t improve. Our afternoon shoot will go into my sporting journal as one of the best. On our drive home, Tom commented, “It’s nice to know that there are still genteel people like the Wellonses.”
Rich and I agreed that the hunt was spectacular. But even greater was the opportunity to meet such hospitable people.
Contact Tom Bryant at email@example.com.
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