Opening day of dove hunting has its ups and downs

CorrespondentSeptember 4, 2013 

White OakIt was Labor Day. Like many other workers, the hunters leaning against vehicles parked under the slight shade of scattered pines on the airstrip at Suggs Mill Pond Game Land had received a day off work. A pair of shots fired from the shotgun of a hunter showed someone was still sweating it out on the sunny side of the airstrip, attempting to hit a fleet-winged mourning dove.

The hunters included a family from Raeford. Steven Jackson, his wife Tammy and son Tanner had taken advantage of one of the permit hunt opportunities offered at some of the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission's game lands. They had entered a drawing for the 60 open slots and had received permits for the opening day hunt.

“We put in for the draw as a party of three,” said Steven Jackson, 41, a welder for the Fayetteville Public Works Commission. “We came out and scouted last Thursday and Saturday. We saw a lot of doves on Thursday, but there didn't seem to be as many today.”

Steven said several other hunters had already left the field, perhaps to return later. The season opened 30 minutes before sunrise and it was pushing the lunch hour, when he said doves would not fly as actively.

“I shot at some, but didn't hit any,” he said. “I did better last year, when we also got drawn for this hunt and I shot nine. Tanner is the one who was sitting in the lucky spot.”

Tanner made his way from the airstrip, a narrow spit of sand situated between the stand of trees on one side and a Carolina bay swamp that had recently been the site of a prescribed burn on the other. The lower bay growth was thick and green, while the upper limbs mostly charred skeletons. The airstrip was planted with millet and grain sorghum, which had been mowed by Commission technicians to scatter the seed to attract doves.

“I lost a couple of doves in the bay,” said Tanner, 19, astudent at SandHoke Early College High. “They are hard to find in the bay. I have 10, so far. They quit flying around 10:30 and they should begin flying again about 4:30, when it cools off.”

Although she was dressed in camouflage clothing like the rest of her family, Tammy, 40, a nurse, was not hunting.

“I didn't shoot,” she said. “I didn't even bring a shotgun. But if I feel like it, I can use either one of theirs. I just came along to watch and be with my family.”

Steven was shooting a vintage Remington 11-48, 20-gauge. The recoil-operated shotgun was a forerunner to today's gas operated shotguns. Tanner was shooting a 12-gauge Mossberg 835, a modern pump action shotgun.

“I also hunt deer hunt and turkey hunt,” Steven said. “But I wouldn't miss opening day of dove season for anything. We drove 57 miles just to get here. I came to be outside and spend some time with my family. If we are lucky, we will take home a few doves to eat. Tammy does the cooking.”

Everyone smiled at the thought of a dove dinner. The way Tammy would cook the dove would depend upon how many were bagged.

“I cook doves a couple of ways,” she said. “I cook some rice and boil the dove breasts until the meat comes off the bone. Then I take some canned chicken soup and pour it over the rice and put the dove meat on top.”

Doves and rice is a traditional recipe that is tailor-made for a dinner when lots of hungry folks show up to eat and there are less than two to four doves per person. A dove breast only yields a couple of ounces of dark, flavorful meat. However, when doves are plentiful, or when preparing dinner for only three, Tammy puts dove breasts on a grill.

“All I do is wrap them in bacon and cook them,” she said. “Sometimes, in either recipe, I also season them with adobo (a Spanish style seasoning). I put some on the doves and add a little water to make a marinade that takes out the gamey flavor. Then, after it is cooked, everyone can season it with adobo to suit their own taste.”

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