- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 16, 2007

FAULKNER, Md.

With a relentless sun doing its best to melt my oversized frame, I sat on a stool, cradling a shotgun with comforting shade too far away to be of any help. Rivulets of sweat trickled down my back and face, and I was seriously questioning my sanity because hunting is supposed to be tied to cold weather, brisk winds and warm clothing — isn’t it?

Such concerns, however, were only temporary. I was one in a group of dove hunters, and I was expected to hold up my end of the deal when several of the fellows took up their stations in nearby cornfields, surely making the mourning doves nervous the moment they walked into the drought-stunted stalks.

“Coming toward you,” someone suddenly shouted, and I had no idea who the “toward you” was until I spotted three of the grayish-brown speedsters fly directly to my position. With the sun in my face, the birds zigging and zagging, flying up, down and sideways, I felt more like scratching my bewildered head than raising an over-and-under 12-gauge shotgun that was loaded with No. 8 shells.

The gun sounded off, and one of the cousins to a pigeon fell. “Good shot,” someone down the gravel lane shouted, but the same voice remained strangely silent when I missed the next two that came near my hiding spot — such as it was.

Dove shoots are to real hunting what carnival bumper cars are to NASCAR auto racing. Still, it should be understood that if you can’t hit a dove fairly consistently, you probably shouldn’t be doing any kind of pass shooting at other, larger game birds.

Dove hunting usually is more of a social affair, a get-together by friends who in some instances haven’t seen each other in a while and now need to reacquaint themselves with the same bunch of people who two months hence will gather for far more serious activities. When cold winds blow across the land to send a message of the coming winter, those friends will be waiting for whitetailed deer atop a tree stand or sitting in a well-camouflaged duck blind at the water’s edge, perhaps in a goose pit in the middle of a chopped cornfield during a driving rain.

But for now the boys were shooting at plentiful doves, missing some and connecting on others. Finally, mercifully, our host’s wife, the beautiful Katie Thorne, called to us from the shade of a large willow where cold sodas waited and deer burgers or hot dogs came fresh off a charcoal grill, while she ladled macaroni salad peppered with pieces of shrimp onto waiting paper plates.

Not a soul refused to answer her call. We were ravenous and grateful to the lady for volunteering to feed the gang. The doves can wait.

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column Sunday and Wednesday and his Fishing Report on Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: gmueller@washingtontimes.com.

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