For 50 years the first day of dove season has excited me. I looked forward to it for weeks. I cleaned and oiled my shotguns, loaded shells, read the pre-season stories in the outdoor magazines, and dreamed of the whistle of wings and the bang of shotguns. I could even smell the acrid perfume of burnt shotgun powder, the most fragrant perfume in the world.
Well, this season is different. Oh, the lead-up to opening day was much the same. I even bought a new shotgun from my friend Keith Woods in San Angelo. Keith runs Woods and Steel (325-234-9430) and is a great source of lightly used guns of all kinds. He is especially adept at finding old, rare Smith & Wessons. I got this gun, the most gorgeous Beretta 686 12-gauge that you ever saw, for what I think was a song. Well, maybe a song and a bit of a dance.
Anyway, I was in my usual pre-season preparation mode when I realized that my usual dove tank was dry as a bone. Also, none of the usual patches of dove weed had come up, or if it had it had been eaten by other animals that were desperate for any kind of sustenance. There were a few doves in the country. I would see them winging high overhead, en route for, well, for somewhere else.
September First arrived right on schedule. This year, however, the usual pre-season rains that arrive right on schedule in the last week of August had been conspicuous in their absence. We have had, as of the first of September, around 4 inches of rain in the last 12 months. Other than the rugged desert brush like huajilla and huisatche the ground is as bare as a tile floor. There is not a blade of grass or a single weed or flower in my pasture. It is a sad sight.
I decided to go hunting anyway. I put on my shell bag, put the shock collar on Sweety, my yellow Lab, picked up the new shotgun, and headed into the pasture. Since the tank was dry the best place to hunt was a guess. I decided that the most logical place was near the horse trough. It was the only water on the place and Sweety would at least have a place to escape the heat, even though my old, retired cow pony, Festus (32 years old!) probably wouldn’t appreciate it much. So Sweety and I set up shop at the horse trough.
At the end of the day I had one lonely mourning dove. I had seen a couple more, missed one at long range.
This is really sad. The doves are elsewhere, probably in Mexico; the quail are scarce, although I did see a covey of 5 a couple of days ago, and there was a pair of scaled quail coming to the barn to pick through Festus’ scraps. The only thing I know to do is pray for rain. Maybe next season we will get a reprieve.