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Vandiver: Hunting part of our long tradition
Josh, Taylor and Jackson Vandiver with their turkeys harvested in April.

Hunting season is on its way. I know, it certainly does not feel like it with 95 degree temperatures and dry conditions, but dove season opens in a mere three weeks. We can’t wait until noon on Sept. 5 to fire the first shots at acrobatic doves that are sure to be dive-bombing the sunflowers and millet that will be fresh cut just in time. 

The summer has been difficult to work on the dove field and food plots for deer season, as the heat and dry conditions have been relentless. I was able to get my tractor stuck, believe it or not, back in June when we were still getting some beneficial June rain. Crossing a creek with a tractor and plow right after a summer shower to start a new food plot seemed like a great idea at the time, but the creek won.

Our trail cameras have provided us some great pictures of the antler growth of bucks on our deer leases. It is amazing, the growth rate of antlers on bucks that have been fed protein since February.

My son Josh, grandson Jackson and granddaughter Taylor picked up turkey mounts from Nimmons Taxidermy in Oglethorpe County this past week. These beautiful turkeys harvested this past spring only added to our anticipation for the upcoming hunting season, starting with opening day of deer bow season on Sept. 12 and opening day of next year’s turkey season on March 26, 2016. All in all, it has been another very productive summer in preparing for the hunting season as “every day is Saturday” for me.

Our dove field is already drawing doves, as we have started cutting strips of millet and sunflowers. Everything was planted by the first of June and got plenty of rain early in the summer. Plans are to cut additional strips every seven days to keep the field fresh up to opening day.

I believe there were good hatches of doves this year as a result of a mild spring with very few storms that tear the nests down. I love watching doves feed on the field early in the morning and late in the afternoon. An added bonus is watching deer, turkey, yellow finches and beautiful butterflies feeding on the sunflowers and millet.

This has, however, been a difficult year to prepare the dove field for us. We lost our good friend Maurice Cash to cancer on opening day of dove season in 2014. This is the first year in 25 years that Maurice was not there with me to help make sure the field was well prepared for another great opening day.

Maurice was an outstanding farmer and, year after year, he grew some of the best silver queen corn in the state.

Perhaps his best crop was his training of thousands of manufacturing employees when he worked with me at Lanier Technical College and the Georgia Quick Start program. His training efforts helped staff hundreds of companies throughout North Georgia, most of which continue to prosper, thanks to the seeds he planted in training their new employees.

I am sure he is looking down on the dove field and saying “You planted it too thick, and didn’t use enough fertilizer,” as he always did. We will never forget Maurice and all he did for our family.

A final checklist for opening day of dove season includes cleaning shotguns, purchasing shotgun shells and skeet, charging the Bad Boy Buggy, replacing batteries in Mojo dove decoys and planning another great barbecue lunch. My son Josh and grandchildren Jackson and Taylor are getting their chocolate lab Chewy ready to retrieve the doves we harvest.

Everyone is ready to create some new memories of another opening day of dove season.

I was able to get some summer food plots planted for deer in spite of getting stuck several times trying to go places I had no business going when it was too wet. The deer protein we fed all spring and summer has definitely enhanced antler growth and body weights of the deer herd. We have trail camera pictures of bucks we passed up last year that have added a great deal of antler length and mass in a year. Technology is amazing, as I can actually be watching doves feed while receiving pictures of deer from trail cameras texting photos to my iPhone.

How did we ever harvest trophy deer or turkey before we had access to today’s technology? A better question is, what will that technology be in the future?

I am preparing to plant fall food plots just as soon as we start getting some rain. I always try to get food plots for fall hunting planted by Sept. 1. Scouting for white oak acorns and persimmons that will be “deer candy” this fall is next on my hunting calendar. I typically use binoculars to identify which trees will have the best mast crops in the fall. Finding the right trees will provide a great opportunity to harvest a trophy buck this fall. This is also an excellent time to do a final safety check on tree stands, making sure that straps are tight and not frayed from the weather and red wasp are not going to greet us opening day as we climb in the stand in the dark on Sept. 12.

Andy Nimmons with Nimmons Taxidermy did another terrific job on the turkeys that were harvested this past spring. We have trail camera photos of the turkeys before they were harvested and it is amazing how natural the mounts look when compared to the pictures. I have often said a good taxidermist is a real artist to be able to create the colors and natural beauty of wildlife in a mount.

Andy has a fantastic trophy room at his shop in Oglethorpe County which provided my grandkids an opportunity to see his mounts, including a zebra, hippopotamus, caped buffalo, wart hog, mountain lion, alligator and others too numerous to mention. Many thanks to Andy for taking time to show them his trophies and tell the stories of how he harvested them.

We are blessed in North Georgia to have an abundance of wildlife and hunting opportunities to share with our families.

Hunting has been a tradition for three generations in our family and opening day of dove season signals the start of the next opportunity to continue that tradition because “it’s in our nature.” Spend some time in the outdoors with a child and start your own hunting tradition.

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