early-day Texas swarming with walking white meat like quail and
wild turkey, it took a while before the dark meat of mourning dove
began to look like tasty fare. But by the early 1900s, with the
lessening of the quail and turkey population due to over-hunting,
dove hunting had emerged as a popular sportsman's pursuit.
While hundreds of thousands of dove continue to be harvested in
Texas each year, and millions nation wide, there's been one big
change: The equipment employed by hunters of migratory game birds.
Today, men, women and teenagers clad in camouflage from their gimme
caps to boots take to the sunflower fields and stock tanks armed
with much more than a shotgun.
Aside from the now ubiquitous hunter's "uniform," no self-respecting
dove hunter can be seen outdoors without a camouflaged stool or
chair, a hunting vest, a camo coffee cup for use before the sun
comes up and again after the hunt, an ice chest for plastic water
bottles and post-hunt beer, and in recent years, even a motorized
in the day, when September 1 arrived, all a hunter needed was a
scatter gun and a place to hunt.
When I first went dove hunting with my granddad in the 1950s, my
"camo" consisted of a worn pair of bluejeans, a white t-shirt and
black sneakers with white rubber soles. Visible as that cotton top
made me, the birds did not seem to be offended by my lack of camo.
Granddad, who to my knowledge never possessed a short-sleeved t-shirt
(he favored the old-style ribbed undershirt with shoulder straps),
did wear a khaki shirt and trousers, but that's because most Texas
men favored khaki in those days. His straw hat was sweat-stained,
but dyed in various combinations of tan and green.
For sitting while waiting for the birds to fly, Granddad had a wooden
Remington ammunition box he'd probably had since before World
War II. He did wear a canvass hunting vest, but it wasn't camo.
Granddad did hunt ducks with decoys, but I never saw him try to
fool dove with an inanimate bird-shaped object. Dove either flew
or they did not.
A fair question to consider is whether any of the modern dove hunting
accouterments actually do any good. They are, however, a great boon
to the sporting goods industry.
thing that has not changed, other than passage of a state law requiring
hunter education courses before a teenager can legally hunt, is
the need for dove hunters to be careful with their shotguns. I went
to high school with a guy who got shot in the leg while climbing
a barbed wire fence and heard of much more serious accidents befalling
other incautious dove hunters.
There's nothing funny about being peppered with No. 7 1/2 bird shot.
At minimum, assuming the person who pulled the trigger is standing
some distance away, it stings. Worse case scenario is truly worse
Edwin H. Cooper, who grew up in Hays
County and spent a lot of his childhood hunting and fishing
in the San
Marcos vicinity, included a dove hunting story in his 2002 self-published
memoir, "How Life Stacks Up."
He described how he and several of his young buddies had gone hunting
one afternoon in the early 1940s. The only adult in the party was
the father of one of the kids, a San Marcos butcher. Being the senior
hunter, he took a seat on a nail keg beneath a tree near the stock
tank the dove would hopefully be flocking to for an evening drink.
The boys scattered around, but Cooper was hanging with the butcher's
son. Suddenly a dove whizzed by low and even as Cooper warned him
not to shoot, the other boy swung on it and fired. The boy's dad,
seeing he was in the line of fire, had dropped to the ground but
the seat of his pants was still exposed when the blast hit him.
The wounded man was able to drive himself to the small hospital
then in operation in Blanco.
There, the boys watched as an old-time saw bones wearing a green
eye shade extracted pellets from the adult's posterior. Each little
piece of lead made a pinging sound when the doctor dropped it into
a small metal bowl before probing for the next pellet.
Back then, a person receiving medical treatment did not simply hand
over a plastic insurance card or rely on Medicare. When the procedure
had been completed, it was time to settle up with one's physician
the old-fashioned way, with cash or check.
The bill came to $24, a not insignificant sum back then.
When the startled patient asked how the doctor came to that figure,
the GP had a simple explanation. His standard fee for treatment
of shotgun wounds was $1 per pellet extracted.