This past weekend, Meredith and the kids and I went up to Olney, Texas, to visit my grandparents along with my folks. It was the opening of dove season in the Texas North Zone, and up to just a day before 9/1 I had been feeling very ill and afraid that we would not make it. Well, Friday came and I felt at least decent enough to make the 4.5 hour drive from Austin, so we packed up the kids and supplies and headed north.
Saturday, my dad and grandfather and I got up early and headed out to some land behind their place that we’ve got permission to hunt on. Some others were hunting around the stock tank we normally occupy so we set up around another nearby. I guess by about 8:00 or so that morning, the birds started to fly. Most of them were white-wing dove coming out from roosting in the city overnight and I had quickly limited out on my two ww. I was going to have to keep a close eye on the flyers so as to not drop any more ww that morning, which was difficult because of the angle I was at on the stock tank — they were mostly flying directly over some brush/trees on the far side of the tank about 40 yards away or so and then breaking to my right across a fenceline. If I shot too early, they’d drop into the tank and too late, they’d drop on property I couldn’t get too because of the terrain. I did manage to bag four other mourning dove before we headed back to the house for coffee and breakfast.
That afternoon, Hays expressed a serious interest in going out with us. I hadn’t really expected it at all. My dad brought my old .410 break-over and we had some shells for it, so we let him come with us. Of course, if you’ve ever been hunting with kids who haven’t been out much, you know that you’re not so much hunting as mentoring and tutoring them. We set up in a treeline under some low overhanging cedar with the sun at our backs. After showing Hays how the .410 worked and giving him a quick rundown of the “this gun can kill things, don’t point it at stuff you don’t want to die” speech we were set up. A little while later a couple dove came in from the far right (away) moving to cross in front of us and pass about 20 yards over our left shoulders. Hays cocked and raised the gun and took aim and fired. He didn’t bring any bird down, but the shot was certainly close because of the reaction of the bird. I don’t think he’d pulled the gun in tight against his shoulder as the next few minutes were him overreacting to how it kicked and frogged his bicep. He quickly figured out that drawing the butt of the gun into the shoulder keeps it from doing that!
A couple more birds did fly in that afternoon, but very few. At one point I did drop a bird out at about 30-40 yards and was having a helluva time finding it in the thigh-high scrub that was pretty green from this Summer’s rains. Then Hays, with his eagle-eyes managed to walk right out to it and say, “Well, duh, dad! Here it is.” Thanks to him, I did manage to bring the one dove I shot that afternoon back to the house.
The next morning (Sunday, September 2) we went out again and set up around the tank we had originally wanted to get around. The birds just weren’t flying, so after maybe a half-hour or so, Hays and I headed out across a big patch of sunflowers and set up in a treeline waiting for the birds to fly in to feed. None ever came. I think we might have seen a grand total of a dozen birds on Sunday morning. It was pretty disappointing, but I had a lot of fun nonetheless, since I was out with my grandpa, dad, and my son.
I had a lot of fun, and so did Hays. He’s enjoyed telling his friends at school that he got to go hunting and on Monday (Labor Day) we stopped in at Cabela’s and he got to look at some different shotguns, including a nice 870 Wingmaster Youth Model. It was still just a little big for him, but they make an even smaller one with a barrel just shy of 19". I might try to find a shop around town that has one in stock to see how it handles for him. I think it’s time to track down a good hunter’s safety course to get both him and Griffin into. Even though she doesn’t want to do any hunting, she’s still interested in shooting skeet and clays with us whenever we do. I’m looking forward to that and even Meredith has expressed a strong interest in getting involved. Not that she’s ever been opposed to it, she’s just not as gung-ho about the whole thing as I am, I guess. Anyway, there’s still quite a bit of dove season left, so I certainly hope we get to go out at least a couple more times. Otherwise the seven birds I’ve brought down this year are going to amortize out to about $20 each!