Dove season is fast approaching and to coin a phrase from my favorite sportscaster Jim Nantz, when referring to the Masters golf tournament in Augusta as “a tradition unlike any other,” opening day of dove season is “a hunting tradition unlike any other.”
The sharing of time with family and friends on opening day of dove season, with a traditional venison BBQ and cow pasture skeet shoot, is something I enjoy every year. The key to a successful opening day of dove season is the preparation you do in May and June.
Sunflowers and brown top millet will provide a great food source on Saturday, which is opening day of dove season this year. During my 50-plus years of hunting,
I always think of the opening of dove season as the start of another promising hunting season. The sweat equity invested in preparing dove fields, deer food plots, locating new tree stand sites and, of course, reviewing hours of trail camera photos are truly a labor of love.
Opening day of dove season’s BBQ is a time to use the last venison and elk from the past season to make room for the next harvest.
The cow pasture skeet shoot allows those of us who only hunt with a shotgun during turkey season a chance to attempt to hit a moving target, which in my case is a difficult challenge.
The hand thrown skeet don’t fly as fast as the doves, but it gives Chewy, my grandchildren’s chocolate lab, a chance to get used to the report of the shotgun. Chewy also enjoys the BBQ and a cold bag of ice to lie on during a typically hot September day.
The preparation and maintenance of dove fields has become one of my favorite summer activities since retiring last year. Watching sunflowers and millet grow are things I truly enjoy.
My grandchildren are amazed how a tiny seed grows to be a beautiful plant with hundreds of new seeds for the doves and many other varieties of birds to enjoy. I hope that this is one tradition that my son Josh and his children Taylor and Jackson will continue long after my hunting days are over.
I guess I have truly become a bird watcher because I love watching doves feed in the early morning dew and late in the afternoon of a hot summer day since “every day is Saturday.”
Deer food plots have their own unique challenges because of the diversity of the property we deer hunt. Stands of long leaf pines in Wilkes County with sandy soil and limited rain, hardwoods in Banks County with plentiful rain and more fertile soil, and a mixture of both in Oglethorpe County make deciding what to plant and when to plant a challenge. Soil tests are certainly a must to determine what types of nutrients each soil requires, as is watching the Weather Channel to predict when to plant to maximize the rainfall for each area.
Frustration of not getting predicted rain, or not using the correct amount of fertilizer, or using too much seed, is certainly a part of trying to get food plots to grow to lush green as the deer season approaches.
Somehow all the sweat equity that is required to get the food plots to grow is worth it when reviewing pictures from our trail cameras of bucks we passed up last year with larger racks this year.
Spending hours in the woods looking for new deer trails to identify tree stand and hunting blind locations is a must.
The insects are bad and it is hot and humid, but that is part of the preparation that must not be overlooked if you plan to start deer season with a bow on opening day Sept. 13. Reviewing trail cam pictures and learning deer travel patterns are very important in the weeks before opening day. This is also the time to locate that special white oak tree that is loading with acorns or that can’t miss persimmon tree with limbs hanging down with persimmons. Both acorns and persimmons are great natural food during bow season.
We are counting the days down to high noon on Saturday, which will renew the “hunting tradition unlike any other” opening day of dove season.
There are some absolutes that occur every year: First of all, it is going to be very hot, the BBQ is going to be really good, I am going to miss many more doves than I harvest, my son Josh is going to outshoot everyone on the field and my grandson Jackson and Chewy are going to love every minute of the day and will find most all the birds.
Finally, when we are dressing the doves after the hunt, we will all talk about what a great day we had and how many shells we shot and start thinking about next year’s opening day.
“Every day is Saturday,” but this will be a special Saturday, renewing a “hunting tradition unlike any other!”
Russell Vandiver, recently retired as president of Lanier Technical College, has been an avid fisherman and hunter for 50 years. His column appears monthly.