The 2019-2020 dove season begins on Saturday, Sept. 7, and each year with its opening, I am reminded of my many trips to numerous dove fields over many years. While growing up in south Alabama, the opening of dove season was a big event every year. It was treated almost like a holiday.
Numerous farmers allowed hunters to hunt doves free in their fields. The days of free dove hunts on a private owner’s land is just about unheard of these days and if you want to hunt doves, you will have to fork out anywhere from $50 to $300 to hunt on private land dove shoots.
In those days, stores closed and family and friends gathered at farms across the area to shoot birds. It was truly a family and friends affair but mostly for the men and the boys. Not too many women and girls were involved in hunting in those days. The ladies were involved primarily in the cooking once the birds had been shot and cleaned.
Times have changed and these days you are apt to see women and young girls show up anytime there is a good dove shoot. Now don’t get the idea that I have a problem with females hunting because I don’t at all.
One of my daughters, Cindy, spent many days in a deer stand and tromping in the woods with me. Cindy always fondly remembered those memories and I will always cherish those memories. Cindy passed away last year after a short illness.
As a youngster, shooting doves was fun and it brought food to the table. I remember many a meal of doves and rice or fried doves with sweet potatoes and fresh corn. Oh my, just thinking about that makes me hunger for just one more meal of doves like that.
My mother was a master chef when it came to cooking the various wild game that we brought home for her to cook. Whether it was doves, quail, squirrel or rabbit, she would cook it up and create a delicious meal.
I have hunted doves from Florida to Virginia and at each place I have hunted there have been some lasting memories. The great dove shoots in Virginia with several of my brothers were probably some of the best as far as numbers of birds and the memories those hunts created. A couple of Amish brothers had a farm of several hundred acres of corn and my brothers and I hunted that farm for several years.
Many stories and memories came from those hunts. I remember us hunting close to a cow pen one day that contained a number of cows and consequently some of the shot birds fell into that pen. Having grown up around farm animals, I never remembered cows being really mean except for an occasional bad bull but those cows in that pen that day meant to protect their private pen at all cost.
If you got within a few feet of the cow pen, those cows would come running and snorting. We would have to divert the cows’ attention away from the bird that had fallen into the pen and while one brother got their attention on one side of the pen another brother would quickly scoot into the pen to retrieve the bird. One brother just about got caught by that bunch of cows and that story still gets told anytime we brothers get together.
The first dove I harvested came when I was five years old. A dove lit on a power line and daddy gave me his gun. I sighted the dove in between the strains of a barbed wire fence and fired. That old 12-gauge shotgun just about knocked me into the ditch but I got my first dove.
The morning dove is the most widespread and abundant game bird in North America. Despite being hunted all across North America, the morning dove remains among the 10 most abundant birds in the United States. That abundance has led the Georgia Department of Natural Resources to continue the daily bag limit to 15 birds this year.
Dove season offers a great time to introduce children to the sport of hunting. It is also a great time for fellowship with friends, to have some good food and a great opportunity to create some lasting memories.
Football fans may have to choose between hunting doves or staying home to watch their favorite team on TV. However, you could hunt doves in the morning since the opening day dove season begins one half hour before sunrise on opening day and then get home for kickoff. See you next week.
Outdoors columnist Bobby Peoples can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.