Dove season is just around the corner, and with opening day, we’re back into my favorite time of the year. I’m a dedicated bird hunter, and look forward to September and the coming months. The Hunting Club membership is right there with me, because unlike when we’re out after deer or turkey, dove and quail outings are social endeavors.
Not that I don’t love other types of hunting, but you have to be quiet in a deer stand, so there’s no socialization unless you’re texting, and if someone’s doing that, he or she isn’t watching for game. Sitting on the ground against a tree waiting for a turkey to call or respond requires total silence and stillness, so you can’t converse in any way.
But then September arrives with opening day, and last year was no exception.
Sitting on a camo stool, Wrong Willie looked at his watch.
“You’re right on time.”
I joined him in the shade of a mesquite tree, after moving up and down the fencerow for almost an hour.
“What are you talking about?”
“You’re predictable. I knew you’d be over here within an hour of when the sun came up.”
“You gonna shoot that bird?” I pointed at one passing within forty yards.
“Jeeze!” He jerked upright and led the dove. His shotgun spoke, and the bird folded. “I almost missed that one because of you.” He thumbed fresh shell into the magazine, rose and went out to pick it up.
“I didn’t tell you to quit watching.”
He spoke over his shoulder.
“You always do this.” He reached the bird and put it in his vest, speaking on the way back. “We scatter out around a field and pick our places, but you’re never still.”
Willie was right. I can’t remain in any one place if the birds aren’t moving. We always arrive at the dove field before sunup, and locate where we think they’ll cross. I look for a tree standing alone, or one with an obviously bare, dead limb. Another favorite location is where fences come together in a corner. If the grass or brush is tall there, it’s a bonus.
Doc, Jerry Wayne, and Willie have their own ideas where the birds will fly. Sometimes they’re successful, other times not. Doc and Jerry Wayne won’t move, though, once they decide on a location. They’ll stay right where they are, come hell or high water.
Willie moves, but not as much as I do. If the birds are crossing somewhere else, he’ll wander over there. But I can’t stand it if they’re flying over a tree, or through a gap that’s not close to me. Five minutes after I see it, I’m wandering over in that direction.
And if the guys are shooting a lot, I’ll join them, because there are always extra shots, and we can talk. That’s the social part I like best.
“Well, I saw ‘em passing over that cedar over there, and got a couple, but then when I heard all the shooting over here, I figured you’d like some company.” I gave him a bright smile.
“You like shooting over my Mojo, too.” His tone was accusatory.
I studied the battery-operated decoy on a stand that looks like a dove landing in the field. “I’m not sure it works as well as you think. Sometimes they flare away when they see that thing.”
“They’re probably seeing you moving around.”
“I know how to be still…” I stopped when a dozen birds flew directly at us. We’ve been hunting together so long there were no instructions. I shot at those on the right, where I stood. Willie shot to the left.
Birds fell, and we walked out to get them.
A shout came from a hundred yards away.
“Rev! To your right!”
It was Jerry Wayne, who can’t hear it thunder and refuses to wear his hearing aids. There was no reason to answer, because I had both eyes on where my bird fell and couldn’t look up to take another shot.
“He always does that.” Willie found his bird. “Jerry Wayne knows good and well we can’t look up when we’re after a downed bird.”
“It’s his thing.” I slipped the dove into my game bag. “Just like Doc’s thing is to just set there beside the cooler and only shoot if they’ll fall within about twenty yards of him.”
A flock hissed by overhead, toward Willie’s Mojo. We fired.
“Hey Willie! Birds to your left!”
“Jerry Wayne just let two birds fly over him while he was yelling at us.” Shaking his head at the shout, he cut his eyes at me. “They went over Doc, too, but he was digging around in his ice chest.” He laughed. “You know what I like best about dove season?”
Back where we started, I backed into the scant shade and wiped sweat from my face. “What’s that? The start of hunting season?”
“Naw.” He fired at a passing dove and missed. “I like it because it’ll cool off soon.”
“Maybe the end of October.”
“You call that soon?”
Jerry Wayne’s voice floated over the harvested maize field.
“Rev! Birds coming in.”
I looked up. Wayyyy up at two birds passing out of range.
“He can’t see good anymore, either.”
To emphasize the point, a flock few directly over Jerry Wayne and he missed three times.
Wrong Willie sighed.
“You know, I’m starting to think Doc has the right idea. Let’s go over and sit in the shade with him and talk.”
“Good idea.” I started across the field. “That’s what I like best about dove season.”