Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A Shotgun Start

This past Saturday was one of my favorite outdoor events of the year - the opening day of dove season here in NC. I have lots of reasons why I enjoy dove hunting, but probably one of my favorite things about it is it marks the beginning of the hunting seasons here. The Monday after Labor Day usually marks the beginning of the archery deer season here in western North Carolina, and not too long after archery season opens, muzzleloader hunting will be open in October, along with the start of squirrel and rabbit season. As Thanksgiving approaches, gun season will begin for deer and the rut will be in full swing. After deer season, there is still time for some squirrel and rabbit hunting, and by the time these end in February, turkey season is not far away.
Sunrise in the corn field

With all that in mind, dove season is not something that only marks the beginning of hunting season for me. Some of my earliest memories of hunting revolve around doves and squirrels, long before I ever knew anything about tree stands or scrapes. It was a wonderful introduction to hunting, because as a child I didn't have to worry about being really quiet and still for long hours at a time when dove hunting. Some of us that dove hunt together every year have been hunting together since before we had our drivers licenses. We keep in touch throughout the year, but not nearly as much as we used to when we were all in school together. Dove season is one of the few times that I know I will see some of these people, and it's about catching up as much as it is about hunting doves.

This year's dove hunting was a wonderful time, just like it is every year. Everyone was excited for the opportunity to hunt, and there was a good crowd hunting on opening day. We were hunting some recently harvested corn fields, and while there weren't huge numbers of birds there were enough to keep things interesting all morning. I didn't get a limit, or even close to it, but I did manage enough birds to have a few to eat. This wasn't due to lack of opportunity, it just took me awhile to get back in the groove after neglecting to shoot my shotgun much over the last year. It's funny to me when I look back over all the years I've been hunting. When I started, my main focus was trying to get a limit of 12 doves (back then, it's 15 now). Now my focus seems to be more about the whole experience of being outdoors with good friends. I'm still there to hunt, and I love grilled dove, but my total focus is no longer on "limiting out".

After hunting on Saturday morning, we decided to meet up and hunt a different field on Labor Day. After Saturday's 90 something degree heat, Monday was a refreshing change. I did have the new experience of dove hunting in a fog, and the weather was a lot cooler on Monday. We had some birds flying in spite of the foggy conditions, and the weather was much nicer than the usual Labor Day temperatures here in the South. I managed to get a few birds again on Monday, but fell far short of a limit once again.

Monday Morning Fog
Monday afternoon's hunt was a different situation all together. There were rain storms popping up here and there, and the temperature had risen. It rained on us for a couple of hours, and the birds just didn't seem willing to fly in the wet weather. I sat out the storm under an oak tree, hoping that the doves would fly once the weather cleared. The weather cleared up around 6:30 pm, but the action was pretty much over for the day. It was off to the house to dry, clean, and oil my shotgun to prevent any rusting.
After the rain
The next day, I got to enjoy my other favorite thing about hunting doves - grilled dove breast! My brother-in-law and I grilled the doves that we had, and also some venison tenderloin that somehow managed to make it from last season without being eaten. I have to say, it was a meal fit for a king! Sometimes people ask me what I do with the doves I harvest, and my answer is always the same. They are good eating!

Doves and Venison
It was a great way to start off this year's hunting seasons, and I will always be thankful for the good times and good friends, and the opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors. I hope every year's hunting seasons begin with a shotgun start!

Thanks for stopping by!

- Joseph

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