Saturday morning there will be familiar but distant sound filling the air. At times it may even sound like a war zone as different muzzle blasts echo through the fields with distinguishable tones.
And doves will fall.
The opening day of dove season is akin to Christmas day to a wingshooter. The party escalates as the birds hit the horizon and at times fill the skies. Family, friends, and even those who are only kin in spirit kick off the fall hunting season. Just one short week later, bow season begins; on Monday September 10 in the western part of the state and Saturday September 8 in the piedmont and eastern North Carolina.
I have mentioned before that dove season holds special memories for me. I firmly believe a good dove hunt can entrench one’s love for the outdoors like few other activities. Youth learn how to stay alert and patient and are rewarded with many shot opportunities. Elders get to relive memories of past hunts with friends and family and often times a convergence of many generations. It is not uncommon to see three generations from the same family in the field together suffering through the heat but enjoying the hunt.
|Bill Howard, Turner Howard, and Bill Howard, Jr in 2008|
Opening day of dove season has evolved slightly over the years. For instance, I was a teenager before hearing of my first paid dove hunt. I was already a seasoned but somewhat inconsistent shooter at the time. Now dove hunts are as much of a social gathering as anything. Pigs are spread open over flames that were started long before people start arriving. BBQ, chicken, and even sausage and hot dogs are part of the event.
During the hunt, age diversity reigns, as both young and old, and those in-between group up or spread out amongst the cover of tree lines, corn stalks, sunflowers, and milo. In one of the few exhibits where all ages get together to join in a common activity, generations are bridged and lessons are passed on and learned.
|Bill Howard, Turner Howard and Bill Howard, Jr in 2010|
The only thing I can find comparable that allows two people of different ages to enjoy the company of one another would be fishing, yet another outdoors activity. But to me, the opening day of dove season just does more. Maybe it is because of the one day excitement and anticipation. Much like Christmas, the days start counting down a couple of weeks before (well, Christmas starts counting down around Halloween thanks to the big box stores, but that is ok). There is only so much preparation you can do other than shooting clay pigeons. Just make sure you have plenty of shotgun shells, some cool clothing that does not make you stand out (remember, doves see in all colors like we do so hunter orange is like a beacon to their bird vision). So instead, you have to spend your time waiting and remembering hunts of past.
|Mike Furiness, Ben Furiness and Bill Howard in 2011|
When you are in the field, and the birds darken the flyways during their frantic weaving and darting speed, remember to not shoot at the low birds and mark the spot where the hit bird goes down. Also, as was told to me one time, you have to pull the trigger in order to shoot the bird, so let the lead fly. And in the end, Saturday may just become one of those hunts you talk about in years to come.