I have long maintained that New Year’s Eve doesn’t come on December 31, at least for us Sporting Types Down South. Our New Year begins when Dove Season opens again in September, which is generally over the Labor Day weekend.
We oil and put away our guns in early May, after Turkey Season. Some of us get them back out in late August to shoot a few skeet and sharpen up our shooting eyes (and some of us need more sharpening as we get older!), but that is just playing, not real sport. The real sporting season begins when you can hunt again, and the first time we can do that (legally, anyway) is on Opening Day of Dove Season. That’s the beginning of a New Year, for afterward comes squirrel season, bow season, rabbit season, deer season, bird season, duck season, and then comes turkey season again in the spring.
This past few decades, with the advent of thousands of acres of corn being grown in the Delta, we’ve had problems getting the old-time concentrations of doves, like we used to get. When cotton was king, and you had a 25-acre millet or sunflower field in the middle of 10,000 acres of cotton, you had all the doves on 10,025 acres. Nowadays, the millet field is in the middle of 5,000 acres of cotton and 5,000 acres of corn, the latter being harvested three weeks before Opening Day. That spreads out the concentration.
This fall at Brownspur, we hadn’t had a rain in nearly two months. I could sit out by the Swimming Hole and get a limit morning or evening (did that the last two years, matter of fact). My neighbor, another Sporting Type, had a dried up pond last year that he decided to reactivate for Opening Day, since it was dry last year, too. He took a 1,000 gallon nurse tank, filled it up, and drove it to the dry pond, where he drained it. When he returned with the second tankful, the pond was dry again. It took 10,000 gallons of water before the bottom of that pond was even muddy, and 10,000 more just put maybe an inch of standing water in it for a day. The next morning, it was dry again!
The weekend after Opening Day a couple of years ago, a young friend called to invite me to come down for a hunt. “Uncle Bob, there are TONS of doves in our field!” he exclaimed. “Bring Adam, and Cuz, and the Jakes, too.”
I done that. We showed up with boxes of shells and spread out across the field, which was maybe ten acres. We loaded up and got ready for a hot shoot.
An hour later, most of us were gathered under a shade tree next to the water keg. Collectively, we had seen three doves, none close enough to shoot at. We began an exercise in mathematics for the benefit of our young host, who was still sitting across the field, so we had to figure loud, to include him. We figured that doves, unplucked and on the hoof, so to speak, ran about three to the pound – this was an estimate, since we had neither scales nor three doves, you must understand. This meant that doves would therefore run about 6000 to the ton, and since our host had proclaimed he had “Tons” plural, we figured that a minimum of 12,000 doves were due to come to that field that afternoon. In order to help him confirm his estimate, we began to count off and subtract to help wile away the long evening. “There’s one, Will – only 11,987 more to go!” “Watch, Adam, here comes Number 19 – only 11,981 to go, Will!”
Cuz, a compooter genius (self-proclaimed), whipped out a calculator and helped our host determine that, if he averaged hitting one of every three doves shot at, then it would take 18,000 shells to bring down his ton of doves, which would cost at bargain prices, just under $2000 per ton of doves, unpicked. However, he could then eat 16 doves per day, so would save grocery money in the long run, for his meat for the entire year would run him only about $5.50 per day, unless of course he wanted a steak once in a while for variety.
Understand that all this helpful figuring was at the decibel level of a shout, in order that our young host could hear, for he steadfastly refused to join us at the water cooler, where most of us spent the entire afternoon, doing mathematical exercises. When the evening was over, we were still 11,376 doves shy of the quota, though Cuz pointed out in all fairness that any doves over the first ton might be classed as plural, so we may not have been but 5,377 doves shy of the declared quota for the field.
Whatever. We were trying to be fair, but haven’t been invited back, for some reason. However, our young host has announced his college major change, to a math science – engineering!
Outdoor experiences can be life-changing, can’t they?