For the first time in forty years I missed the opening day of dove season. It was an accomplishment on par with Cal Ripken’s streak of 2,632 consecutive baseball games played and I hated to give it up. The culprit was an out of town wedding the timing of which was poorly conceived. Not only was it opening day of dove season but my beloved Georgia Bulldogs were kicking off just as the preacher was clearing his throat to begin the ceremony. My how times have changed. In the not too distant past it wouldn’t have mattered if I’d been invited to attend the nuptials of King Charlemagne, I’d have taken a pass even had it meant being stretched out on the rack.
The wedding and reception were however not without some redeeming qualities. There was a power outage just as the band was in the middle of a rowdy rendition of “Shout” made famous by the Isley Brothers and that incident was followed by an electrical fire in the pool house which rousted the local fire department to action so the evening was not a total loss.
But it wasn’t nearly as much fun as dove hunting on opening day and watching the Dogs.
Nonetheless my absence at the annual dove shoot did not go unnoticed so, feeling sorry for me, the boys decided to gather up again early Labor Day morning for a matinee. It had been some time since I’d gone on a morning shoot but it gave me a chance to salvage something from my streak so I gladly jumped on board.
In preparation for this secondary hunt I pulled my shotgun out, dusted off the leftover feathers from last season, squirted some oil on it and threw it in the truck along with some shells and a bucket to sit on. Legal morning shooting hours were set to commence at 6:40 a.m. and thus we were in our blinds at 6:30 in eager anticipation of the early action.
I had forgotten how dark it can be at 6:30 so I was sitting there as the low light in the east crept slowly in. At 6:40 on the dot something airborne buzzed me like a low-flying miniature aircraft – I heard it but never saw what it was. I think it was a dove but wasn’t sure but that quick episode put me on high alert. A moment later another something flew in and I quickly threw up a shot only to notice that I’d actually attempted to down a marauding bat. Bats are difficult to hit given their
keen radar and darting action plus they are not that good to eat. Anyway he got away cleanly but all the boys thought I’d actually seen a dove and I didn’t want to spoil their anticipation nor give them reason to harass me by telling them it was only a bat.
From that point on the hunt went something like this:
6:52 to 6:55 a.m. — missed the next three shots. All were verifiably doves.
6:56 to 7:00 a.m. — hit three straight shots and bragged to myself, “The kid is back.”
7:01 to 7:10 a.m. — whiffed a batting practice fastball right down the middle and then squandered two more easy shots and muttered to myself, “%&$#@” which loosely translated means “what a ding-dong you are.”
7:11 to 7:12 — a large group of birds come in simultaneously – always a cool thing to see but also difficult to focus in on one to actually fire upon. As a result I shot in amongst them on the first try and my second shot was directed at a tweety bird (non-game species) which had misguidedly flown in with the doves. No birds (tweety or otherwise) came to harm even though I emptied my magazine upon them.
7:13 a.m. — the call of nature necessitates, as you might logically imagine, a trip to the woods although it is difficult to concentrate with all the gunfire and shotgun pellets falling around you.
8:00 a.m. — 47 minutes later I emerge from the woods and return to the fray. The boys all concurred that my face looked like a dog who had attempted to pass a peach pit. Real funny.
So that’s kind of how my hunt went. Made a few good shots, missed a bunch of easy ones but had a blast (no pun intended) and even though my streak came to an end it was a pretty good Labor Day weekend. After all I got to see a beautiful young couple get married, was treated to the sound of fire engines racing to save the day and the Georgia Bulldogs came through with a stirring win.
I guess three out of four ain’t bad.
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