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Outdoor Life: Dove hunting a fall ritual
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    Author’s note: It has been a year since I’ve been making my weekly visit with you in the Statesboro Herald. In celebration I offer up a story that many South Georgia hunters can relate to — the opening day of dove season.  For most of my adult life we have had a dove shoot on the first day of hunting season. It is a time when family and friends have gathered to share fellowship, food and a day of outdoor life. This is a story about one of our exploits.

General Patton could not have prepared the battleground with more care and precision. Right after Memorial Day the earth was mowed, and tilled.  The millet was sown and fertilized.  The summer showers took care of the rest.  When the crop came to fruition it was cut, the ground burned and strips of soil plowed to make it even more appealing to the little bandits who would not be able to resist the temptation.  Seeds were everywhere.  Pre-ambush reconnaissance missions reported massive sightings of the enemy.  The trap was set.
    The season opened on Saturday before Labor Day at 12:00 noon.  Our platoon arrived early for there were still details to be attended to.  We needed to build some blinds to better camouflage the soldiers who would lie in wait later that day.  We also needed to find a couple of hours to stuff our guts on the man-feast that my brother Terry was preparing.  Once the blinds were carefully prepared we set about the important matter of consuming as much food as we possibly could. 
    The menu consisted of pork tenderloin (wrapped in bacon), pork chops, barbequed ribs, different varieties of sausage, (to insure protein intake was adequate), corn on the cob (for our daily supply of starch), grilled peaches with a brown sugar sauce (in order to get our fruit and sugar servings), and we topped it off with a churn of home-made double chocolate ice cream (to cover our intake of dairy products.) Thus we had a balanced meal and afterwards the dove shoot was in danger of being canceled because everyone was either asleep or headed for the woods with various gastric difficulties.
    Nonetheless duty prevailed and everyone was ready at the appointed hour.  The lookouts reported in about 1:30 and said that there were a few enemy troop movements.  The time for combat was upon us. 
    Manning the northwest corner of the battlefield was Colonel Terry Richardson who doubles as our chaplain and cook (and coincidentally is the sharpshooter of the crowd) along with PFC (private first class) Grant Richardson. Grant is the youngest of the platoon and thus relegated to small weapons fire and picking up dead enemy corpses.
    Guarding the northern boundary of the field was Lance Corporal Taylor Richardson.  His status has become enhanced by the fact that at fourteen he is fast becoming a crack shot and will soon by-pass the others in total kills.  He is currently under review for a promotion.
    Captain Dan Cisson anchored the eastern front.  He is well known for his serious demeanor and gruff orders (as well as his ability to stow away vast quantities of food even in the face of a looming battle.)  When he speaks the underlings take heed and step smartly.  He is an aging veteran who rarely misses a shot and vents his displeasure in a variety of ways if he does.  His presence is a stabilizing force in combat.
    Buck private Alvin Richardson covered the southern flank.  His demotions in rank have been the result of charges of sky-busting (shooting at enemy flyers that are too far away) and consistently coming in with the fewest kills and the most ammunition expended.  Although he still has courage, his skills are fading and a replacement will be necessary if improvement is not documented by his superior, Captain Cisson.
    On the southwestern corner of the ambush was Master Sergeant Ben Whidby.  His workmanlike qualities (plowing and mowing the field) have brought him up in the ranks.  His marksmanship is still under evaluation but he can still strike fear in the heart of an enemy because his gun is so loud that it scares them over to another area of the field where serious shooters can take them out.  His hearing is irreparably impaired from years of shooting that cannon next to his ears.
    Along the western periphery strode General Dewey Richardson.  He has led this expedition over the course of three decades.  His experience in planning and executing a battle plan is unmatched and he still protects his part of the turf with determination.  His rank is such that he now reserves the right to take occasional respites for Gatorade and to check the University of Georgia football score.
    On cue the little gray rockets invaded our field trying to steal the precious millet.  They dived and strafed us and we opened up on them.  Mind you this was no mere firefight but was more akin to Operation Rolling Thunder.  Shots rang out from all over as the conflict raged.
    My famous grandfather / hunter who helped introduce us to the enjoyment of outdoor sports always handed out some sound wisdom as we headed out to our stands at the beginning of a dove hunt.  “Boys, go out there and let ‘em know you ain’t holding no cornstalk.”  We have always been happy to follow that sage advice. 
    In the end we could not declare victory; there were too many escapees for that.  What we could declare was another precious day together in the outdoors.  A day we all look forward to again next September.