I was sitting on the edge of a big cut over a maize field and it had been a good 30 minutes since I last fired a shot. The shooting had slowed, but I heard shotguns booming on a dove field about a quarter mile to the west. The group of hunters there were obviously in the birds.†
I probably needed to move to where the action was, but on this first hunt of the fall season, I was a bit reluctant to do so. During the lull between shots, I was lost in thought, contemplating some of the hunts Iíve enjoyed during the past five decades. And thinking about the wonderful times Iíve had with family and countless hunting buddies shooting dove from the rolling prairies of North Dakota to the brush of South Texas.
The booming shotguns in the distance would have sparked me to move to where the action was 20 years ago, but not this morning. I was perfectly content to remain there on the edge of the big mesquite flat that overlooked the vast sunflower field and shoot at the occasional dove that came my way. Itís funny how we learn to savor the time we spend doing things we love as we grow older. Not too many years ago, a dove hunt was all about shooting a limit.†
I still like the heft of a heavy game bag and later, the dove breasts wrapped in bacon and grilled over hot mesquite coals. However, just being there to savor the sights, sounds and smells of the changing of the seasons is more than enough to cause me to drive a couple hours in the predawn darkness to arrive at a favorite dove hunting spot in time for the morning flights.†
The air had that hint of fall. Early September in Texas is definitely still summer, but the smell of dead weeds and the occasional falling leaf fortified the fact that fallís cooling touch would soon come to the woods.†
I hadnít fired a shot in 10 minutes and began reliving vividly the details of a dove hunt with a favorite uncle and aunt on a corn field near Hockley, west of Houston back in the Ď60s. My tranquility was disturbed by a Kestrel that came sailing in on silent wings and landed in the upper limbs of a dead oak, about 30 yards from my position. I remained perfectly still and, dressed in camo for the hunt, Iím sure I blended well into my surroundings, but not so well as to avoid the eyesight of the little raptor that can spot a mouse blink while soaring high overhead at 30 miles per hour.
A pair of morning doves came whistling by. I caught their movement out of the corner of my eye but the little falcon was the object of my interest.†
He too watched the passing dove and something engrained in his predatory nature told him the birds were moving too fast and the cost of pursuing them would likely expend way too much energy for the ďiffyĒ reward of a dove brunch.†
He continued his vigil watching for easier prey. After a couple of minutes, he totally ignored me and I watched his head turn ever so slightly as his telescopic-like eyes fixed themselves to the ground.†
Then he spread his wings and lifted into a slight west breeze, made a quick semicircle over the area and bore down to the ground in a flash. He then flew back to his vantage point in the dead tree, a mouse impaled in the talons of his right foot. Reality brought me out of my daydreaming of many dove hunts past. I had just watched a wonder of nature that left me in awe.†
There I was with my 20 gauge over/under shotgun that, in the right hands, had the capability to down a fast flying dove at 35 yards. Had I been hunting strictly for food, I would have gone hungry this morning. The little falcon, armed with swift wings, amazing eyesight and razor sharp talons was by far the best hunter stalking this little patch of sunflowers!
I wish now that I had taken the time to better savor the sights and sounds I witnessed while spending time in the outdoors as a youth but such was not the case. The impetuousness of youth has its own rewards and in hunting situations, they usually equate to bagging birds and game and seeing whatís over the next hill rather than observing nature.
Iíve had the distinct pleasure of being in some awesome hunting and fishing country during my life and, thankfully I absorbed enough of the experiences to recall more than just the weight of my game bag or size of antlers.
Free pork for the taking
Many of us that lease land for hunting deer have discovered our hunting property is also host to a very healthy population of feral hogs. Most hunters wait until winter and the close of deer season to put their pork in the freezer, concentration on deer during archery and rifle seasons.†
I began trapping hogs last year and plan to put a couple of smaller porkers in the freezer this month rather than waiting until the close of deer season. Traps can be baited during midday and checked after the morning hunt.†
Thereís absolutely no reason why we deer hunters should not take advantage of all the free ranging pork and still enjoy setting on stand during early morning and late afternoon. Itís hard to beat a slow smoked ham or backstrap from a young and tender wild hog.†
I often smoke an entire small hog and make chopped barbecue The meat can be frozen and brought along to serve as the main course for the evening meal at deer camp this fall.
Colorado elk season opens soon
September is the very best time to hunt elk in the high country with archery equipment. Guide Larry Large with L & L Outfitters just returned from scouting the land he guides on in northern Colorado and reports that despite some disheartening reports of drought in some areas, the ranch he guides for elk and bear is in excellent shape.†
There is plenty for the animals to eat and elk are in great shape with some good antler development on the bulls. Bear are becoming active now, feeding heavily in preparation for hibernation.†
Weíre looking forward to a great month of hunting and invite anyone who has never experienced a Ďsoftí elk hunt to learn more about what L&L does. Much of our hunting is over elk wallows and on trails the elk use daily traveling from bedding to food and water.†