Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Last Bird

The dove can humble the best of bird hunters, and since I am not the best, one can only imagine my humiliation.  But I’ve already told that story (La Paloma).  Over a period of about 20 years I hunted a number of birds including the dove, but it was the dove that had the last word.

In the ‘80’s my wife and I lived in Arizona where hunting is almost mandatory, and from time to time I took advantage of the opportunities.  It seemed to me dove were  everywhere just begging for me to shoot them, and I tried.  I really tried.  I spent a small fortune on shells for the old 20-gauge, and I believe the dove I brought home ran me between $25 and $30 apiece.  But I kept trying.

About 10 to 12 miles from where I lived were some canals providing water for the city of Phoenix, and the dove came there in large numbers all day long.  In the fall, during dove hunting season, the numbers seemed to increase.  It was a dove hunter’s paradise.  I went out regularly during each season, and I always managed to bring home a limit.  Dove was on the menu several times each week, and I didn’t care what it cost to bring them home.  I knew this would not last too many years into the future the way Phoenix was expanding.

On the last day of the season I arrived ready to fill my limit once again.  The night before I had eaten the last of the previous hunt’s birds, so this last day would provide my final taste of dove for another year.

I dropped a box of shells into my vest pocket and walked over to my favorite spot.  The sun was just up when I arrived there, and within a minute I could see dove in the distance.  Suddenly a lone dove flew in front of me about thirty yards out.  Quickly I brought up the 20-gauge and squeezed the trigger.  Click.  It might help if I loaded the shotgun first.

I noticed the dove had circled back and was crossing in front of me again as I loaded up.  As soon as I was ready, it flew back by.  Boom.  I missed.  Again it circled around.  Boom.  I missed.  And again it turned and flew in front of me.  And again, Boom.  And again I missed.  I reloaded while watching the dove sit on a branch of a Palo Verde tree about forty yards out.  It was watching me.  We played this game a few more times before I began to have flashbacks of a dove that had flown through my pattern on my first dove hunt.  (La Paloma).  This couldn’t be happening to me again.  It just couldn’t.

Several more birds began to fly by, but they were in no danger.  I couldn’t hit one if it were looking down the barrel of the shotgun while I pulled the trigger.  It didn’t take long for me to use up the entire box of shells with nothing to show for it.  I thought of the extra boxes in the car, but enough was enough.  I decided to go home.

Just as I was turning to walk away, the dove sitting in the tree flew over to within a few yards from me and landed on the ground.  It turned sideways to look at me with its right eye, and then it turned around to look at me with its left eye.  I think it was laughing.  But I walked on back to my car, got in, and drove to the skeet and trap range nearby.

I went through four trap rounds without a miss.  I used up the last of my shells on skeet with only two misses out of about twenty pulls.  I don’t get it. 

The next year I was not able to spend any time in pursuit of the dove, but the following year I was prepared.  As I got near the area, the first thing I noticed was paved roads.  Not good.  Then I noticed the construction sites.  Oh well.  I drove around for a while watching the dove still occupying the area, but the hunting was gone.  I drove out a few more miles, but it was useless.  The doves were staying near the canals, and the canals were in the construction zone.

A year later I was living in California.  I packed away the shotgun and never used it again, so I must say that the last statement about bird hunting belonged to the birds.

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