Long Necks . . . Doves, That Is!

By Christian Chavis

When I was but a wee lad . . . hold it! Sorry, I�m not Irish, let me start over. When I was first allowed to go hunting with my father and grandfather, the first quarry I remember tagging along after were doves. My grandpa, or Papa Pete as everyone called him, had recently moved to Hemet to take care of his mother in law. Hemet in those days was "dove heaven." (I hear that you can still find one or two doves there if the moon is right and, well, you get the picture).

Anyway, I remember being around seven and my cousin was eight when we went to K-mart and got our first hunting licenses. What an exciting day for us! Our dads and Papa Pete were proud, but they withheld some vital information from us. We had to prove we were gun safe and did not get to carry ammo in our guns. I still remember saying to myself, "what�s the point of lugging this gun that�s longer than me in this 100 degree heat?"

We followed along closely and pointed our guns in safe directions and finally my cousin earned two rounds for his over/under shotgun. I was green with envy. He loaded his rounds, rested the butt on top of his thigh and promptly fired both barrels into the air. The number 7-1/2 birdshot whizzed close to the adults heads. It was deathly quiet while the 20 gauge echoes slowly faded off the canyon walls. I thought my cousin was a goner for sure, those being the days that you could spank a kid with a belt and not go to jail. Alas, from that time on he only was allowed to hunt with one round.

As the day came to close we retired to the trailer park to learn our second lesson regarding doves, how to clean them. I personally thought at the time that this was a lot to ask, having just covered God knows how many miles in the scorching sun only to be put in a metal shed with birds I didn�t even shoot and hear Papa Pete say, " that�s dinner, get�em cleaned." To his credit, Papa Pete did show us how to clean one. It took him six seconds; I blinked and thought I must have missed it. My cousin and I looked at each other and shrugged. We looked at the pile of doves, grabbed one and tried to pull its head off. I had the body and he had the head and its neck stretched to about a foot long! Papa Pete came by, looked in the shed and then fell over laughing. He excused us, cleaned the birds himself and we went to do whatever kids do when not stretching doves' necks.

Doves are fast shooting and sometimes downright challenging, but the problem is that it�s just too darn hot when the opening comes to town. I always shoot the second season because I hate the heat.

I always remember the first bird I kill with a new gun and twice doves have been the unlucky recipient of that honor. The first was with a Bennli Nova decked out in mossy oak shadow grass. Not the usual dove gun, but stopping by a friend's farm in el Centro after getting skunked duck hunting that morning, I reached out and hit a dove flying by in a different county.

The other time was with my new H&K Silver Lion. We were hunting this secret spot near Joshua tree, the temperature was 116 degrees and we could barely touch our gun barrels, when the first dove of the day can into view. I dropped it like a bad habit. The only comment from my friend being, "How about letting them get in range?"

I miss my Papa Pete. He liked to remind people that his birthday fell on the opening day of dove season and that was his favorite sport. I can�t say that doves are my favorite, but they are pretty high on the list of great memoires. Can we ask for anything more than that?

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