September 1 is a Holiday

Posted September 11th, 2012 by Wade

Every year, there is a date you wont find on many calendars, but is considered sacred by a large portion of the masses.  It transcends religion, race, gender and even age to a large degree.  It marks the beginning of a time.  A time that is usually thought about the whole year. Prepared for, in many cases.  What is this thing that seems so important, but unless you’re a member of the “club”, you probably don’t know what it is?  Dove season.

Most people simply refer to it as “opening day” or “opening weekend” if so appropriate.  Sure, there’s school and football and other stuff starting up as well, but dove season marks the start of all hunting in Texas.  Teal season follows, with deer and turkey not far behind, brought up lastly by duck season.  But dove starts us off.  Texans pour into the fields in search of their winged quarry.  Whether they be hunting a sunflower patch, or over a tank, a simple flyway down a tree line, or whatever, hunters are in the field.  Unlike deer hunting, dove hunting doesn’t have to include privately owned land, leases in the 5 figure range, dedicated hunting vehicles, equipment all over the place etc.  Dove hunting is a great way for a common man (or woman) to get out in the field and enjoy nature.  And quite possibly put some food on the table.  Really all you need is some clothes in muted colors (preferably with at least a camo t-shirt), a shotgun and shells, and a legal place to hunt.  Sure, you can go big with high dollar retrievers, break open shotguns, the finest in internet ordered apparel, while standing around harrumphing about your latest IPO or what whomever shot at the club.  But this is not necessary and usually not the norm.

For many, dove hunting is as much a social outlet as anything else.  Sitting on stools within muffled hollering distance to each other when the birds aren’t flying.  Perched on tailgates more talking than hunting.  Squatting with a new hunter trying to explain how to lead a bird and “point” the shotgun, don’t aim it.  And my current favorite, sitting with your kid.  Don’t get me wrong, I love hunting with my boys.  There’s a small group of us that have been hunting together for pushing 20 years now.  And some of the crew has only been together a few years.  Its time in the field I wouldn’t trade.  Hey, sometimes I even hunt birds by myself, which is perfectly fine too.  A little quiet time in God’s stadium isn’t bad for anyone.  There’s nothing like being outside with your friends, enjoying nature and all it offers, trying to put a little food on the table and possibly having a couple cold beers in the process.  Its really hard to beat that.  This year’s start was no different.

Last year S got her first bird.  Was a huge accomplishment and something we still talk about.  This year, she was hoping to better her stats a little, but I wasn’t so sure due to an apparent lack of birds.  When we were packing up I handed her shotgun to her and told her to shoulder it (after a double check that it wasn’t loaded).  She did and swung it around a little bit.  “my gun’s gotten lighter!”  oh my adorable little blonde huntress.  “no sweetie, you’ve gotten taller and stronger in the past year”.  “oh yeah, that too”.  S and I were taking a quick Sunday trip to the ranch just her and I.  The previous weekend (opening weekend) we had a full boys crew at the ranch and did alright on the birds.  Didn’t slay them, but had some eats and a good time doing it.  The second day of hunting was noticeably worse, so I was concerned S wouldn’t even get a shot at something the next weekend.

S and I settled into our stools after setting the mojos running and loading the shotguns.  At first I popped a couple flyers that clearly weren’t going to land so we could hopefully have a few apps to take home.  We chatted about school and friends and nothing important.  Sometimes there would be pretty good stretches of quiet between us.  I’d sneak a look at her and rather than staring at the ground or piddling with her fingers like 10 year olds do, she’d be looking around soaking it all in.  Watching the cows wander around (that dang slow white cow!), the dragonflies and wasps on the water, the occasional turtle poking its head up in the tank, deer running around at a distance across the pasture.  Ranch stuff.  Then a dove finally came in and lit on the tank.  S was on it.  Brought her shotgun up (with much less effort than last year), clicked off the safety and took her shot.  A bit low but probably peppered the bird a bit.  I tried to follow up on it and in a minor fit, threw all three shots at it as he flew away, quite probably laughing at me.  Oh well.  Misses do happen.  More chatting about nothing in particular.  The way a killdeer squawks (and why we don’t shoot them).  The way the clouds looked in the setting sun. Why I didn’t bring my slingshot (and how she wants me to teach her how to shoot it).  Unimportant things to the outside world, but critical to us.  No judgment, no pressure.  Just her and I talking.  Then another pair of birds came in.  S got ready and made her shot.  Bird down!  I winged the second one before it could disappear over the tank dam and lit in a tree.  Pretty sure we hi-fived. I’m honestly not real sure.  S had to tell me “let’s go get my bird!”  So walked over on the dam and picked it up.  Finished off my winged bird in the tree and got to put another in the bag that flew over us from right to left.  S got her bird and a lot of congratulations from me.  I know we did a low-five at that point because I almost tripped in doing it.  Got back to our stools for some pics (and a quick text to mom anxiously waiting for news at home).  One more bird before it got too dark to shoot and called it a hunt.  6 birds total in the bag is not good, but more than I was expecting.  And best of all, S got herself another one.  Check that.  Best of all, I got to be with S, when she got her second dove.

Turns out Smokey Moes that we were looking forward to closes at 8pm on the weekends, so we ate at a Taco Bell on the way in.  A lot of the ride was quiet.  I was reflecting on the afternoon together and I think S was too.  Time together away from technology and the hustle/bustle of normal life is something that money cannot buy.  Granted, we got home pretty late for a school night and were tired the next morning, but sometimes there are much more important things to learn than sitting in a classroom.  Maybe S learned something while she was with Dad.  Maybe I learned that dove hunting with your oldest should be a holiday unto itself.  Because it sure feels like one to me.


She’s Country, (shoot) from her cowboy boots to her down home roots she’s country,

From the songs she plays to the prayers she prays,

That’s the way she was born and raised,

She ain’t afraid to stay, country brother she’s country

-Jason Aldean, She’s Country

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