It’s a good thing that dove season opens on a Saturday because if opening day came on a weekday many of the students in our schools would be absent from class. The opening day of dove season is described by many as being a cross between a religious holiday and one of those time-honored southern traditions. You just don’t go to school on the opening day of the dove season.
Our North Carolina mourning dove season opens a half-hour before sunrise on the first Saturday in September. That’s the traditional opening day in our state and since school is not in session that day, many youngsters will be taking to the fields to take aim at these fine game birds.
One of North Carolina’s favorite outdoor writers was Robert Ruark and he often told his readers about his days of hunting dove. One of his earlier memories of a dove hunt had to do with one such hunt near his hometown in Southport. His description from the book “The Old Man And The Boy” tells how he was called out of the classroom one day, giving one an idea of how important dove hunting is in our state.
Ruark’s teacher met with Ruark’s grandfather and told the young hunter that “Your grandfather has got a crisis. He has explained to me that this is the day that the dove season opens and he just got a message from a friend of his that there’s a big dove drive taking place, away off in the other end of Brunswick County. He says that he doesn’t think the entire progress of education would be ruined if I’d excused you from the rest of the classes today to go with him. He’s also asked me to dinner to eat some of the doves. You better run along. I’ll need about two hours’ help with some papers tomorrow afternoon and you can pay me back then.”
We need more understanding public school teachers like that today.
Since we’re getting close to the opening day of this year’s dove season the usual requests from hunters about just where they can hunt dove have started coming in. Numerous newspapers and sporting publications will advertise such opening day hunts, which include a pig picking and other festivities for a nominal fee. Needless to say, the dove fields will be swarming with hunters.
Last year I attended one of the most outstanding Saturday’s dove hunts of my life when I went over to Lake Mattamuskeet to take part in a dove hunt being conducted by the Hyde County Relay for Life. These enterprising folks had decided to use a traditional dove hunt to help raise money for the American Cancer Society and their research into ways to help cure cancer. The hunt was appropriately called the Hyde County “Hunt For A Cure.” It raised more than $4,000 for the American Cancer Society last year. They are planning to conduct the third annual hunt on Saturday, Sept. 8 this year and the public is invited to attend.
It’s especially interesting that this hunt is very much set up to introduce younger hunters to the sport of dove hunting. While adults are being asked to contribute a $100 registration fee to benefit the American Cancer Society (tax deductible), youngsters under the age of 16 are to be guests of the licensed (paying) hunters.
This “Hunt For A Cure” dove hunt is being co-sponsored by Jamin Simmons and the Mattamuskeet Ventures and will begin at about 7:30 a.m. with a traditional southern breakfast. The hunters will take to the fields after breakfast and, if this lives up to the expectations of Jamin Simmons and the other sponsors (Mattamuskeet Management, Dare to Hyde LLc, Precision Custom Farming and Mattamuskeet Ventures) who help out with this worthy cause by volunteering their land to hunt on, it will be an outstanding dove shoot.
The traditional dove hunter’s pig picking will be the luncheon for the hunters and is included with the registration fee.
For hunters who aren’t familiar with Hyde County and the Lake Mattamuskeet area this is best described by Superior Court Judge Wayland Sermons.
“Hunters, especially young ones with adults, have ‘flocked’ to eastern Hyde County the last two years and enjoyed an early breakfast. A terrific dove shoot, and a pig picking lunch in probably the most remote and naturally beautiful areas in North Carolina.”
It should be emphasized that this is a great dove hunt to take youngsters to. If you are a parent or you may be mentoring a future hunter, a dove hunt is the place where you can stay in close contact with the novice hunter and make this a great learning experience. It’s difficult to explain to a new dove hunter just how much to lead these speedy birds.
Again, quoting from Robert Ruark’s grandfather in the book “The Old Man And The Boy,” “Doves are the easiest hard shootin’ in the world. In all the ballistic computations of mankind, ain’t nobody ever figured a way to lead a dove too far if he’s going past you in a high wind, after he’s been chased from one corner of a field to another. When he’s coming straight at you, you got to throw some shot up where he’s going to be a second later, and that seems like that’s near about a quarter mile away, sometimes, if he’s quarterin’, you got double trouble. My blanket suggestion is just to point about 20 feet in front of him, pull the trigger, sweep the gun around and pray. Maybe something will drop.”
As usual hunting safety will be emphasized before and during the hunt. If the weather will be hot, hunters and volunteers will frequently be riding ATVs through the fields with cold water for the hunters (and dogs).
Registration forms to apply for this “Hunt For A Cure” may be obtained from Ms. Tonie Marshall at 790 Main Street, Swan Quarter, NC, 27885. Since the amount of food that’s needed for the breakfast and pig picking needs to be well planned in advance, it’s very important that hunters complete the registration forms prior to the hunt.