For Andy Trbvoich, 37, a Wake County school teacher, Labor Day weekend blows open the door to his favorite time of year – hunting season.
Monday, he was searching the skies in Southern Alamance County for dove. His efforts on this hot and humid morning were disappointing – a harvest of only two birds. Last year in this same field he and his father-in-law limited out with 15 dove each.
Trbovich never experience dove hunting as a youth in Ohio; it was prohibited.
“I grew up on the family farm, hunting squirrel and rabbit and deer. Six years ago my father-in-law introduced me to dove hunting,” he said. “I love it but deer and duck are my favorite. I can’t wait for the season to start.”
Never miss a local story.
Trbvoich’s teaching schedule at Durant Road Middle School, a year-round school, plays perfectly into his hunting pursuits.
“We’re in school nine weeks, then have three off and at Christmas it is five weeks off,” he said. “Right in the midst of deer and duck season.”
Bob Walden, a retired engineer living in Mebane, has been dove hunting for 55 years.
“I was 13 when my dad borrowed a 20 gauge side by side for me to use dove hunting,” he said.
Walden, who is Trbvoich’s father-in-law, almost called off hunting dove on opening day. He still had last year’s harvest in the freezer.
“I said we’re not going until we eat last year’s take,” he said. “So we had ’em last night. My wife uses a pressure cooker to tenderize the birds. Then she bastes them in the oven in a Worcestershire sauce.”
Tom Pate, a realtor in Burlington, epitomizes the father and son dove hunting tradition.
“I was 6 years old when I went on my first dove hunt with my grandfather and uncle in Angier,” he said. “I shot three boxes of shells in a .410 single barrel and never cut a feather.”
Now, at age 64, Pate realizes how significant dove hunting has become in his life. He has experienced not only hunting with his grandfather, but his father, two sons and two grandsons.
On these hunts, Pate and his family and friends have been to such places as Whiskey Tree field listening to ACC football on a portable radio, eating barbecue and watching his Boykin Spaniel make retrieve after retrieve. That is why Pate can not imagine Labor Day weekend without dove hunting.
“I look forward to it every year,” he said. “It’s like Thanksgiving and Christmas to me. It’s a big part of my life. … It’s about as sociable as it gets.”
Pate is concerned about the future of the sport.
“I’m afraid we are losing this generation to the computer and the family unit is so geographically spread out,” he said. “Finding a place to hunt is becoming more and more difficult. Some of the best dove fields are now housing developments or a golf course.”
Pate’s family, considered dedicated hunters and fishermen, love to eat the game they harvest. They grill dove wrapped in bacon after marinating about an hour in Worcestershire sauce and Italian dressing.
Bob Rudolph, 68, a yarn salesman living in Southern Pines, enjoyed his first dove hunt in the fall of 1984.
“I had never experienced so much shooting on one hunt,” he said. “It made an impression on me. I’ve been hooked ever since and hunt every year.”
“Rudolph grew up on a dairy farm in Minnesota, where dove hunting was unlawful. He remembers walking many fields as a youth kicking up pheasants.
“After I finished my chores, I’d go out with friends. We walked many a corn field, five or six of us, 30 yards apart, weaving back and forth,” he said. “It was a lot of walking. Later in the season we’d transition to squirrel hunting and ducks.”
One of Rudolph’s fondest memories of the outdoors is at age 8 buying a springer spaniel for $5.
“I named him Freckles and he lived to be 18 years old and never saw a vet.’” he said. “He lived in the barn and would run the perimeter of the farm every morning. Sadly, I don’t have a picture of him.”
Probably no one was more disappointed with the opening day dove harvest than Bryan Pennington, 61, of Burlington. He spent hours on a tractor preparing the land for dove. The result, only five birds.
He remains puzzled as to why the hundreds of dove feeding in his field a week ago disappeared on opening day. Not to be deterred, he was back on the tractor at day break Wednesday making preparations to plant wheat for the late dove season in December.