- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 25, 2005

CRESAPTOWN, Md. - Because the doves we were after generally don’t fly about under a noonday sun, Brent Nelson figured we’d have enough time for a grand tour of “his” mountain. Much of this massive, densely wooded land in Allegany County has been in Nelson’s family for many decades, and it was plain to see how deeply he loved it.

We inched our way up into the hill country over bumpy dirt roads. Nelson’s dog, Happy, stood in the open window on the driver’s side, front feet planted on the truck’s side mirror and hind legs precariously balanced on the rubber holding strips of the lowered window, her master’s hand ready to grab her if necessary.

“She’s looking for squirrels and wild turkeys,” said Nelson, a well-known fishing guide just across the line at Garrett County’s Deep Creek Lake as well as on the tidal waters of the Potomac River near the District.

Soon a flock of wild turkeys appeared out of nowhere. The little Jack Russell dog leaped from the truck and ran toward the big birds, but they flew off in three directions and the pooch returned triumphantly. Happy had accomplished what she came to do. If it had been turkey hunting season, her master would have been walking with her to accomplish the same thing and sitting down behind some shrubs and trees to begin clucking and yelping on a store-bought call to bring the turkeys back into shooting range.

As the truck continued to creep over rocks and tree roots, I spotted a deer-hunting stand with a small plaque on the lower end of a large oak. It was put there in honor of Nelson’s longtime friend Sam Fore, a Southern gentleman who came to know Nelson and his deer hunting clan, eventually being invited to hunt with the western Marylanders.

When Fore died after a lengthy illness, Nelson promised that no one would ever again hunt in that tree stand. In fact, a solemn service was held in the Allegany forest, with a man of the cloth scattering Fore’s ashes over the place he spent so many happy hours in.

Nelson looked at another oak and said, “This one holds a special memory, too. I was up in that tree with my bow one day when a big black bear showed up to feed on acorns directly under me. He knew I was up there, and he didn’t like it. He looked up at me and made a clacking sound with his teeth. I wasn’t very happy either. Eventually, though, he left.”

Nelson shook his head as if to wipe away nostalgic cobwebs and said, “Let’s go and get our gear and see if we can’t shoot a dove or two.”

Just below the family cabin, close to a state road, we loaded the truck with a half-dozen mourning dove decoys, plenty of No.8 shotgun shells, camouflage shirts and hats and a battery-powered Mojo Dove that rotated its wings at the push of a button, promising to attract wary birds over a partially chopped sunflower field.

When we arrived, our friend Mike Sawyers, the fine outdoors writer for the Cumberland Times-News, was already in place, waiting in a hedgerow while we set up the small decoys and the Mojo Dove.

Nothing much happened after that. Oh, now and then an errant dove would come across the treetops and we’d do some magnificent missing with our smoothbores. Lots of laughing and cajoling accompanied each failed shot.

Eventually, however, Nelson found his rhythm, followed by Sawyers and even me.

As the sun slowly began to descend behind the mountain ridges, doves arrived by the numbers, zipping in from the left and right, taking a hard look at the decoys and the field. The way they flew, it was apparent they’d been shot at before they reached us because when we zigged, they zagged. They knew something was up.

However, we managed to bring down enough of the little speedsters to provide delicious dove breasts for a planned game dinner at Nelson’s and Sawyers’ hunt club.

The camaraderie and happy shooting competition among three friends was wonderful, almost as wonderful as the rib-eye steaks we devoured later that evening.

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column every Sunday and Wednesday, and his Fishing Report every Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: [email protected]

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