It's impressive how long rows of ripe sunflowers, broad harvested grain fields and languid farm ponds with a dead snag or two really seize your attention in late August. Early squirrel season may have already been open for a couple of weeks, but who drives by woodlots looking for a stand of hickory nut trees?
When September is near, it's not a long Labor Day weekend that creates a sense of exhilaration in the air. Nope, sorry, such anticipation can be reserved only for the opening of dove season.
The mourning dove is arguably the most widely pursued gamebird in the United States and deservedly so. Mountains of shotgun shells are expended in pursuit of this royal bird, which is all right and proper. But the tradition associated with opening day for dove is much more ceremonial than just a date on the calendar for huge swaths of the country. Especially in the South, welcoming the entry of dove season often takes on a fervor frequently reserved for religious occasions of the highest order.
In most of the country dove season opens Sept. 1 at high noon. Obviously it is usually much too hot to hunt at such an uncivilized hour. Yet noon becomes the appropriate moment for dove hunters to gather under giant shade trees and ponder the coming mission, even though the instant to actually take the field may be hours away. Noon marks the beginning of the rituals: building a fire in the battered barbecue so sizzling deer and elk burgers flavor conversation with their perfumes; admiring shotguns, old and new; enjoying good-natured banter grading shooting skills, or lack thereof; chatting with the kids attending their first dove shoot as active hunters; catching up with old friends not seen since last Sept. 1. These hours of camaraderie built upon years of shared hunts, shotguns, dogs, hunting friends long since departed and new acquaintances just discovered are precious portions of sacred ceremonies.
The magical spell stretches into late afternoon when swarms of rocketing birds beckon the chatterers into action. Activity quickens. Shooting vests are donned; shells are selected; weather-beaten pickups are boarded; shouts of excitement include the calling of dogs—all amid final blessings for "good shooting."
In the field guns bark, doves moved constantly by the strategic placement of hunters. Shouts of frustration ring out as lessons are taught over and over again by a 6-ounce critter, two-thirds tail, whipping by at 60 mph. Soon, the tattered old game bag develops a satisfactory heft. The color of the sinking sun and the feeling of the blessed, cool afternoon breeze suggest it's time to give thanks.
So camo coveralls come off, shotguns are cased and lovingly stowed. Thoughts of a big black skillet and the smell of frying doves cause mouths to water. It is the perfect end to a perfect day.
Did You Know?
The American black bear (Ursus Americanus) is a medium-sized bear found only in North America. It is incredibly adaptable, occupying a greater range of habitats than any other bear in the world.
At this year's Texas Truck Rodeo, the Texas Auto Writers Association named Ram Trucks worthy of delivering true Lone Star State capability. We're proud to announce Ram Trucks roped in some respected awards, including the highly coveted title of Truck of Texas for the 2011 Ram 1500. No small feat in a state that's known for big things—like standards for their trucks.
2011 Ram 1500 Laramie Longhorn: Luxury Pickup Truck of Texas. Fit for the rodeo. Worthy of Rodeo Drive. Ram Laramie Longhorn was named Luxury Truck of Texas for a reason–it's loaded with only the best. Like premium leather trim, heated and ventilated front seats, ornate belt buckle seatbacks and more. With authentic southwest style and true Ram Truck capability, 2011 Ram Laramie Longhorn sets a higher standard for luxury trucks.
2011 Ram Outdoorsman: JFull-Size Pickup Truck of Texas. From open range to thick backwoods, Ram Outdoorsman has the off-road capability to take you where ordinary trucks can't. Rugged, all-terrain tires, heavy-duty cooling, enhanced lighting and available RamBox storage with Mopar gun and fishing rod holsters making heading into the sticks more fun than ever.
1EPA est. 14 city/20 hwy mpg for Ram 4x2. Ram, HEMI, and RamBox are registered trademarks of Chrysler Group LLC.
We Hunt Bear by Adam Heggenstaller, Editor in Chief, Shooting Illustrated
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Record-high winning bid for 2013 Montana special bighorn permit
U.S. states with native bighorn sheep seasons—Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wyoming
NRA conducts metallic reloading training courses across the country. Go to nrainstructors.org to find one.