I have to admit I like Aug. 31 and Sept. 1 a whole lot more than I do New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.
I would rather be headed to a hunt than a party any time. Give me an old motel or hunting camp in Texas’ Big Country over a country club. Camo over khakis. Bedtime at 9 and an alarm clock set for 5 a.m. over going to bed at the crack of dawn. A bucket of water for the dog instead of a bucket of Champagne.
I don’t think I ever went to a New Year’s Eve party where I enjoyed myself. I know I have never been on an opening day dove hunt that wasn’t fun.
And here we are again at the 50-something opening day of my 60 years and the anticipation is just as high as ever. In fact I started organizing shotgun shells, choke tubes and camo shirts a week ago.
One of the things I like about hunting is I get to see the state. The small towns back off the interstate. I have a couple of stops to make in the next few days before returning home, and with any luck at all I will be out again next weekend.
I don’t remember my first dove hunt. I was too little, but I bet I know exactly where it was. It would have been a field owned by an uncle on the Johnson-Ellis county lines. I would have been with my father and a bunch of his brothers, and I was probably a pain in the keister.
Through the years I went from observer to bird boy and hunter in that same field. It was the only spot on the farm with trees that provided a roost for the birds, shade for the hunters and occasional water. I remember the water because in those days we didn’t have dogs. We had rocks, dirt clods and the wind, and it would often take all three to create enough wave action to push a floating bird to shore.
Dove season is a time to look ahead for Texas hunters.
It is the opener for all fall hunting seasons. Coming quickly on the heels of tomorrow’s first-day action will be the early teal season beginning Sept. 13 and then archery white-tailed deer season Sept. 27.
From there it is a domino effect of one season after another until quail season closes the last day of February.
Looking forward makes it easy to look back and reflect on the great season and good friends that have come and gone. Since the last dove season I have lost two hunting partners. One of those I hunted with during high school and college, the other as an adult. We had some great hunts over the years and even better times together.
I haven’t hunted with my father since about 1980. He died much too young in 1983 and opening day is when I think of him the most. I can still see him kneeling when a bird approaches, armed with his old 12-gauge Remington Model 31.
It was a monster of a gun with a 30-inch full-choke barrel and metal recoil pad that didn’t take anything out of the kick. But in his hands it was deadly.
Our last hunt was near where Texas Motor Speedway stands today.
The birds flew high all day and while the rest of us struggled the old man sacked up a limit.
At the time I didn’t know it would be our last hunt, but his last shot sticks with me today. It was a sky-busting shot, and I remember laughing to myself when the bird fell to the ground and proudly thinking that’s my dad.
Of course both of my sons have made many opening day hunts with me growing up, but in recent years school and work obligations have made getting everyone in the same place as the same time difficult. Chances are we will eventually catch up with each other again in the next few years.
This week I will be meeting up with old friends to continue opening weekend traditions and meeting others to start new ones.
Sports announcers often talk about coaching trees. The same occurs in hunting. A few years ago I got invited to join a group opening morning south of Austin. Since then I have become a regular on that hunt and have now met up with some of the others from that field on down the road for other hunts.
Headed north to another field for days 2 and 3 and I will be meeting up with some more hunting friends added in the last couple of years and I am sure adding more to the group.
For hunters this is the true new years.
It is a party that will last six months and that is something to celebrate. But only until about 9 tonight, and then its lights out.
Have a comment or opinion on this? Email Steve Knight at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow him on Facebook at TylerPaper Outdoors and on Twitter @tyleroutdoor.