John’s Note: My older brother made a lot of sense about identifying and hunting doves close to Birmingham, Alabama, our home. Plenty of fields, gravel pits and industrial sites around Birmingham homed large populations of doves. I’d always dreamed of hunting these regions but assumed they were off-limits because they were situated so close to the city. However, after checking with my local conservation officer, I learned these areas could be hunted if the sportsmen had the landowner’s consent.
On this opening day of dove season, as Archie and I walked toward a brush pile in the middle of a cut grass field, I watched doves coming in through the late afternoon light from all directions.
They flew from the big oak trees where they rested in the shade of the trees during the hot September weather. They came from the pond behind us where they’d been watering. They flew into the field and fed on the grass seed, and they lit on the power lines and dared us to try and come close enough to take a shot. The doves also lit on the barren gravel ground next to the pipes and picked up grit for their craws. I couldn’t believe the number of birds that came over the trash pile where Archie and I were hiding.
“Here they come, John. Here they come!” Archie screamed in a loud whisper as eight gray feathered ghosts came screaming across the sky like well-tuned fighter jets, dodging and rolling and bouncing through the air. As the birds got closer, Archie whispered, “You shoot at the ones on the left, and I’ll take the ones on the right.” When the doves closed to within 30 yards, Archie and I both came up with smoking barrels.
Since this shooting was the first I’d had for the season, I underestimated the speed of the birds and the flight of the shot. The first dove passed through the kill zone without even having its feathers ruffled. The second bird did a barrel roll to the right just about the time I squeezed the trigger. But when the dove straightened up to adjust its flight plan, the third shot intercepted the bird at exactly the right coordinates in the sky. As the dove tumbled, I heard Archie yell, “Behind you, John, behind you! Here come three more.”
My right hand dove into my pocket, and my fingers anxiously arranged shotgun shells so the proper end of the shell could go into the loading part of my Remington 1100. Just as I crammed the last shell into the bottom of the gun and pulled the receiver back to load the first shell, the doves were on top of us. I swung quickly, found the bead of the shotgun with my sighting eye and promptly missed the first dove. However, with the second bird, I took more time to aim and dusted it as the dove attempted to make a speedy exit. Off to my right, I heard Archie filling the sky full of lead.
When the birds left, we quickly reloaded and went to pick up the downed doves. But before we could reach our birds, more doves came over our blind from the graveling area. For the next 1-1/2 hours, the shooting was almost non-stop. Several times I almost screwed myself into the ground as birds came from all directions at one time, and I attempted to turn and aim in three different directions at once. By the end of the afternoon, we had our limit of birds and were headed home in time to watch the 6:00 P.M. news.