Saturday Night Lights

After the past Saturday’s spectacular dove hunt just outside of George West, my Dad and I decided to accept the rancher’s invitation and made arrangements with him to be there the coming Saturday.

We would be taking one more shooter with us, my ex-wife. It was almost a problem because she was eight months pregnant with our second child, soon to be Randy. But in those days the sex of the child couldn’t be determined until birth. My Dad and I thought, “Why not, one more license would let us get another limit of birds.” Come Saturday morning we packed Brad off to my Mom, and set sail for George West.

Arriving there around 2:30 PM, we met the rancher and paid him a whopping $15.00 for the three of us. An added benefit was that he was going to hunt with us again this week and he was going to take us to three new places. He said the birds were still eating him out of house and home and they were starting to cost him money.

A little after 3:30 we arrived at out first stop, a fifty-acre milo field that had just been cut, and as we walked to our hunting areas, birds were coming and going, flocking, to the field. Pop, pop, pop, pop, four guns barked and two doves fell. More shooting, more birds going down. The shooting was fun, but the retrieving was hot work. Soon, my ex-wife got too hot and took the first of her several breaks. So three of us were shooting, pop, pop, pop, and more birds falling.

We checked and we had our bag limit, forty-eight birds, in about forty-five minutes. Our bag and possession limit was ninety-six, but after last weeks hunt we still had plenty of doves!

Hot shooting, in more ways than one. Shotgun barrels were too hot to touch, the heat was staggering, and thankfully we had our limits and could go on home. But the rancher said, “We need to go try to this new stock tank and see what’s there.” “But we have our limits,” my Dad and I exclaimed! “Limits? Let’s go shoot”, grinned the rancher.

I guess we thought that this guy really wanted to shoot some doves and we sure were the right guys to help him, so, off the four of us went to this new stock tank complete with several dead mesquite trees standing around the bank. The tank was about one acre and its banks were gravelly and smooth right down to the waters edge. A perfect set up for doves.

Taking our stations behind some buck brush, pop, pop, pop, pop, and one dove fell – a little different shooting than an open field. Soon we were in the groove and the doves started falling in the water and around the tank and we had four more limits.

No afternoon swim this week so handing my wallet and watch to my Dad, I unceremoniously waded out and picked up the birds and told the rancher, “We have our bag and possession limits and really should stop shooting and head on home.” He replied, “I have one more spot, a roost, that we need to try.” Drying of as best I could, the rancher and I left for the roost. My two hunting partners decided they had had enough and would sit this one out in the shade around the rancher’s house.

Arriving at the roosting area with about thirty minutes left to shoot, birds were already coming in. The roost was a large chunk of South Texas brush country with a clearing surrounding a small rise, a miniature hill. The birds were guiding on the clearing. Mourning doves will guide on a tree, telephone pole, house or any outstanding feature in the landscape to assist them in flying the most direct route to food, water and a safe place to roost.

We were in their direct flight line, and pop, pop, pop, pop, we unloaded on them and birds started falling. By end of shooting time we had well over two more limits. A quick tally told me that we faced cleaning over one hundred and thirty doves, then driving home. We faced a terrible fine if a Game Warden caught us!

Back at the ranch house, behind his patio, the rancher turned on every outside light he had. I thought, “We may as well go to the local high school stadium, turn on those lights and clean our birds.” The four of us start cleaning them and saw headlights coming down his drive. Maybe it’s his wife? Fat chance. We could tell it was a truck, a green truck with a grayish seal on the side – A STATE GAME WARDEN!

We were in a heap of trouble. Fifty birds over the limit at $5.00 per bird is $250.00 and probably loss of our licenses and our guns. Ouch! Maybe this was all a scam, a set up to get an easy collar for the Game Warden? He walked up slowly, nodding to the rancher. The rancher stood and shook his hand. We died! The rancher said, “This is Warden so-in-so.” The Warden smiled and said, “Hidee. It looks like you folks,” we died again, “need some help cleaning these birds.” He added, “I know you all shot a lot of ‘em, but we just have too many on this place and they need thinning out.”

Alive again, before the Warden changed his mind, we hurriedly finished up on the birds, piled into the car and headed home (with all of the birds).

There were so many birds the answer was more hunters not over limit shooting! After that “near miss”, we adhered strictly to game laws. Randy was born three weeks later and remains a dedicated hunter