Fetch That Bird

In September 1964, the hot spot for mourning doves in Texas was George West, a small town southeast of San Antonio. Grain fields abounded and there were miles and miles of the famed south Texas brush country for roosting.

To sample some of this reportedly outstanding shooting, my Dad and I had decided to go ahead and pay for a “day hunt”. We called the local C of C and they gave us the name of a rancher booking hunts. We called him and set up a hunt for the coming Saturday.

Arriving in George West, after the three and a half hour drive from my home in southwest Houston, we greeted the rancher and paid him a whopping $10.00 for the two of us. An added benefit was that he wanted to hunt with us, three limits now, and then he took us a to a special place to shoot. He said the birds were eating him out of house and home and were a nuisance. We said, “Fine with us. Lead on!”

This particular late September in South Texas was unusually hot and by 3:30 PM, no daylight savings time, everything was either wilted or too hot to touch. The only wind was hot and every footstep would stir up tiny dust devils. Some may say, “Too hot to hunt”, but both of us, being tight, had paid our money and would take our chances.

We crammed into the ranchers pick up, this was before king cabs, and he drove us to a half acre stock tank. The tank was surrounded by light brush, just enough for some cover with smooth banks down to the waters edge. At one end was a dead mesquite tree and the tank was right beside a fresh cut milo field. Perfect!

Taking our stations in the brush, and this brush didn’t provide much shade at all, we didn’t have to wait long for the doves to come to the water – pop, pop, pop, pop, pop and three birds fell, two into the brush and were quickly retrieved, the third fell into the water. The rancher said, “Don’t worry about that one, there will be a lot more fall in and we’ll get ‘em later!”

The birds continued to pile in on us and the shooting was fun, but the retrieving was hot, hot work. We quickly learned to shoot a bird, mark him in the brush and go pick him up before taking the next shot. Those that fell into the water, we just let them float.

As the doves continued zipping in, we took a quick count and had forty-two birds in hand and twenty-one in the water. Bag and possession limit was seventy-two for the three of us. We picked our next shots carefully and made sure the retrieve was an easy one. Soon we had our limit, with twenty-three still in the water.

Unloading my gun, I started looking around for loose rocks or cow chips to chunk at the birds in the water. The rancher stopped me with, “Jon, how about a swim” as he kicked off his boots and peeled down to his shorts? My Dad and I followed his lead and soon there were three grown men splashing around in the cool water and chunking the doves back on to the bank! Not a bad ending to a great hunt!

As we dressed the rancher said, “This sure beats working up a big sweat chunkin’ those birds out!” As we were driving back to our car he said, “Why don’t you two come back next week?”