The thrill of dove hunting isn’t about shooting.
Seems silly, right?
Expense, time and energy are shelled out to chase after a quarter-pound bird, but the true aim isn’t to harvest as many as possible as quickly as possible.
It seems like a paradox in this day and age when hours are among the most precious of commodities, but those spent enjoying the sights and sounds of a September afternoon and evening in Texas are among those you can’t assign a true value.
They’re the magic hours.
And ones brimming with natural elements.
The sweet aroma of long-stalked sunflowers baking in a warm breeze.
The symphony of grasshoppers composing melodious tunes as if playing off one another in a grand finale.
The distinctive polished texture of new shells sliding smoothly into a trusty shotgun.
The wide-eyed eagerness of Labradors feverish with gusto at the thought of being in the field.
The satisfaction that arises after completing a difficult shot when you’ve got someone nearby on a fence line, along with the accompanying complimentary shout.
The related needs of swatting away mosquitoes, shimmying away from fire ant beds, dusting off sticker burrs, wiping away sweat and squinting to zero in on incoming birds.
The amazing awe that comes from seeing wildlife spring up from every nook and cranny, whether it’s a hefty jack rabbit, a diminutive horny toad or even a docile rattlesnake.
The camaraderie of friends once strangers on a previous hunt who share the affinity for passing time here as much as the next hunter.
Then savoring sitting on a tailgate when impressive lines of doves wing it to their roost perches dripping with an orange hue signaling another sunset.
Dove hunting simply is the excuse to revel in these aspects of our world that for many may only be observed for a couple of days or weekends once a year, if at all. Even waiting in line at the sporting goods store before the opening of the season is tolerable knowing that you soon will have that most precious of annual documents, a pass to a world overflowing with Easter eggs.
The best part is that whether the doves are flying or not, those treasures that typically remain hidden ultimately will lead to a successful outing.
Many folks may question this rationale and some may continue to assess a good day hunting as one that ends with a limit — and that anything less is a disappointment.
Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy shouldering my favorite shotgun as much as possible when mourning doves and especially white-winged doves are in abundance — something that usually is the case wherever you are in Texas — but I find as much enjoyment in the “being there” moments.
I find even more delight when I’m able to share those flashes of life with family or perhaps someone who never has had the same privilege. And a freedom it truly is.
The majority of hunters are cut from the same cloth. They’re nostalgic, longing for more memories with others able to break free for even a few hours and let down their guard — at least until birds in twos, threes, fours and even fives sprout up on the horizon and flock toward any number of shady hiding spots large enough to conceal a keen-eyed lookout with a scattergun.
Here’s hoping you’ve already had occasion to spend an evening watching the sun go down on another dove day afternoon complete with all the sensory trappings that make this time of year one for the birds.
If you haven’t, there’s still plenty of time.
Pulling the trigger is secondary to an excuse to simply enjoy the great outdoors.