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The dove season opener in the rear view mirror is like any other enjoyable event, whether it’s an amusement park visit or a family dinner, in that you have mixed emotions of being a little melancholy as well as happy when you think about the fun. The dove season opener is a lot like any other sporting event in that there is a lot going on. Each season opener there are new players or rookies and there are the old favorites. There are players who are unable to be starting because of jobs and other commitments. There is also a time to reflect on former great players and what they brought to the game. There can even be a time to talk about equipment and if it was good for the game. And of course the game can be called on account of weather. During the lull in the action, there are even a few moments to replay highlight reels about impossible shots. Of course, there times when the umpires (game wardens) are a little too eager and if they are too strict with their calls it really hurts the enthusiasm of recruiting new players.
Our opening day actually began the night before at camp where four of us sat around the fire ring and ate brats and told stories and laughed until our sides ached. Conversation topics were the standard stuff: children, grandkids, hopeful thoughts about the upcoming fall hunting seasons and past success. New this year was the fact that two of the friends had four children in college combined and what that meant in their lives. And of course there is always politics! There was a time when people would talk about whether they believed the planet was getting two or three degrees warmer each year, but the general consensus is that it’s about four degrees dumber. We were also blessed to have a veteran in the group, so my brother told some Army stories, at least the funny ones. The bad ones he keeps to himself and without being there we wouldn’t understand or appreciate the gravity of the situations.
When the opening morning arrived, we were in the field about 5:45 staring to the west at an approaching line of thunder, lightning, and rain showers. There were a total of seven of us hunting the bare corner of my brother’s property next to a cornfield. As the storm got closer to the west and the sunrise got closer to the east, it became increasing obvious that shooting hours and the rain would both arrive about the same time. The hopes were that we might get an hour of shooting in before the rain arrived. The scouting we had done the week before the opener revealed the doves were using the bare sand to gather grit, as well as some seeds like foxtail and other weed seeds. Doves are also a little light on feathers and would prefer to be dry rather than soaked attempting to waddle their way through tall wet grass. So we had placed our line of hunters so as to cover the bare corner of the field. We also placed a Mojo dove decoy and a Lucky Ducky motion decoy in the corner. As the time to legally shoot came and went, a few doves were spotted, but it was too dark to see the doves because of the overcast skies. When it became time to scurry back to the vehicles, all we had was one dove to show for our efforts at that point. No one goes hunting in the blind anymore, so the smart phones revealed we had at least two hours before there would be a break in the rain. So we returned to camp and thanks to an overhead pop up rain/sun fly over our fire pit we cooked some more brats, which were renamed to be “breakfast brats” and we sat under the fly and ate and attempted to avoid the smoke.
I would suppose that it was 10:30 or so and with only an occasional rain drop we returned to the field just like ballplayers after the rain tarp had been removed. The action was a little slow as it seemed the doves had not received the word that the game was back on, but there was still action. The temperatures had cooled down a little after the rain and along with it came a little stronger breeze. This made for less mosquitoes and took a little bite out of the humidity. So we stayed in the field well after dinner time and it paid off for us as every hunter saw some action and added to their daily limit. Perhaps around 1:30 or 2:00, needing a little break we returned to camp for some small rib eyes and potato salad. It was sort of like a seventh inning stretch. It also provided us the chance to dress our doves and get them on ice and cooled down.
After the break, we headed back out to the field for the final hunt of the day, as most in the group wanted to leave the field by 5:00. The motion decoys had not been very successful during the day of drawing doves to us, but for whatever reason this final hunt saw them earning their batteries. We had doves coming into us rather than pass shooting we were more successful with our doves per shot ratio. But with limited opportunities, we still had another fun hunt and every one of the shooters had some success. A couple of hunters in our group probably got their limits, but it’s never about taking limits and it never has been. For my brother Kent, he has probably participated in over 60 opening days and for myself I’m over 50 opening days. For one in our group, it was his first opening day. All left the field judging it to be a success if only for the time of fellowship. I went back to the cabin and did some cleaning and picking up along with help from Mark Lemmon. I didn’t get too carried away because I would be returning to the cabin later in the evening to spend the night again only this time I would be alone, but with lots of memories of another opening day in the rearview mirror.