Category Archives: Hunting

Opening Day . . .

Saturday was the opening day of dove season in Florida.

I love dove hunting.  Ever since I was a kid, most years, first weekend in October, you’ll find me and my dad in some field somewhere around Polk County.  There have been times we’ve had to drive for hours.  There have been days in the rain.  Some are milder, although it’s usually close to 90 on opening day.

I’ve sat in blackberry patches and palmetto patches and cow pens.  Pastures and orange groves and millet fields.

Saturday, we were able to finagle an invite to a private shoot, on a high dollar field.  Tickets to shoot this field typically go for $75/person; we were able to go for free, due to a miscommunication on the outfitter’s side (read: he told us we were booked, but he didn’t bother to book it) . . .

So we meet up with our contact, and sit through the safety briefing . . . after clarifying the rules, our outfitter took us to the hayfield.

Y’all, this hayfield was a beautiful hayfield  Giant rolls of hay dotting it in a random pattern, edged by palmettos and pine trees.  A great place.

a beautiful hay field . . .

a beautiful hayfield . . .

The outfitter gets out of his truck and walks back and says . . . “Well, what do y’all think?”

To which I replied “You tell me . . . I’ve never been here in my life.”

Him:  “Well, I don’t really know anything about dove hunting.  But I’m pretty sure there are birds everywhere.  Ya’ll give this a few hours, and we’ll check on you to see how it’s going.”

To which I thought a couple of things:

  1. I am a fishing guide.  I make most of my money doing IT work, but I also guide, mostly in salt water.  I take people to catch snook, and tarpon, and trout and redfish.  And so I’m looking at this the same way I’d look at a fishing charter, only I’m the customer.  You guys, I cannot imagine a scenario under which I’d take my clients out to a beach or dock or island, and drop them off, and say, “Well, I’ve never fished here, ’cause I don’t fish for the fish you want to catch, but you give it a little while and let me know if you don’t catch anything.”  Yeah right.
  2. Um – staying in that same vein – how about I pick up my charter at the dock and say, “well, what do y’all think of this spot?  Think it’ll work?”  I could probably write off repeat business . . .
  3. How, oh how, do I not know someone with an extra 20 acres of land?  Because if these knuckleheads can take you on a dove hunt without knowing anything about dove hunting, imagine someone, who, you know, had actually done it a couple dozen times in his life could do!!!

Anyway.  Pops (my dad, who Will has named Pops) drops Liv and I off and we tote our chairs out to a hay bale.  He and Will then drive a quarter of a mile back around the field and park under some trees.

At this point, in most dove hunts, I’d tell you all about how birds began trickling in, one here, one there, blahblahblah.

Only.  There was one problem with this dove field.  It had no doves.

We saw bald eagles, and purple martins, meadowlarks and kestrels and buzzards and a mockingbird or two.  We saw a spider balancing on a piece of hay that was balanced on top of a blade of grass.  We saw a banana spider that was as big as my hand.

But no doves.

We drank Mountain Dews and ate candy bars and a good luck bag of M&M’s and a good luck bag of Twizzlers.  We had guacamole chips and cheese puffs.

Liv - ready for action

Liv – ready for action

Nary a dove.

The hay bale had bird feathers on it.  I’m not an expert on bird feathers, but these were small and gray, and, well, dove like.  If this had been an episode of Blue’s Clues, I’m telling you, everything was pointing “Dove” . . .

Have you ever driven around town and noticed doves?  There were seven in my front yard yesterday.  I don’t have anything special for doves out there . . . grass?  Ant beds?  Hydrangeas?  But seven doves, right there, at 3 o’clock in the afternoon.

And yet, in this beautiful hay field, where you can pay $75 to shoot doves, with a wonderful breeze and good luck candy and a father/daughter duet of “America the Beautiful” as two eagles flapped overhead – no doves.

So we sat, and we talked, and we joked and laughed and teased.  Sometimes we’d just sit in silence, until one of us asked the other “have you killed anything?”  Will walked the quarter of a mile to us; twice.  Once he was barefoot.  He wanted to know if we’d seen any doves.  He and Pops hadn’t.  Will had successfully shot a palmetto bush 20 times in a row.  It was the size of a small farmhouse.  But he never missed it.

Will, walking across a beautiful hay field, barefooted . . .

Will, walking across a beautiful hayfield, barefooted . . .

He had finished all of their Twizzlers, and worked on ours, which was fine, because Liv doesn’t really like Twizzlers; she’d merely choked down a bite of one as a good luck gesture.  It didn’t work.  Oh well – better to teach the kids that superstitions are silly, right?

Around 5, the outfitter calls to check in with us.  How are we doing?  Um, bro, did ya’ll line this property with dove repellant?  ‘Cause the law of large numbers says it’d be hard to find a piece of property in Central Florida anywhere where you could sit for 5 hours and not see a dove . . .

Still, there’s something special about the opening day of dove season.  How often, as a parent, do you get to sit with your kid, uninterrupted, for 5 hours?  No cell phone, no iPad, no TV.  We talked about school and church and crickets and spiders and buzzards and teachers and boyfriends and fishing and hay bales and palmettos and Duck Dynasty and shotgun shells and Twizzlers and brothers and birthday parties and Europe and passports and . . . and . . . and . . . no doves.

Before we leave, we crack open a 4-pack of YooHoos, and toast to an afternoon spent in the hayfield . . .

No doves?  Still a pretty successful day . . .

Highlights of a dove hunt . . .

Highlights of a dove hunt . . .

Things I think . . .

  • I think the thinking that gets me in the most trouble these days is as follows:  I’m leaving the office, heading to pick up the kids, and I haven’t stopped to eat lunch.  I’m in a hurry, because I’ve pushed my time constraints to their absolute limit, and I know that I really have to beat it to make it to Will’s school in time . . . but I’m starving.  And Chick-fil-A is there, but, bless their hearts, they are on the other side of the road, which means going up to the light, circling the building umpteen times to get through the drivethrough, then meandering back out to the light and waiting for it to change so I can get where I need to go.  I love CFA . . . I feel as though their honey-roasted barbecue sauce is the stuff of dreams . . . I deduct money I spend there as “tithe” on my taxes . . . but I just cannot make it happen quickly.  And where I get in trouble is with Dairy Queen.  It looms on my right, easy in, easy out, no line, no tax implications . . . boom, Medium Oreo Blizzard with Chocolate Ice Cream.  Lunch – Check! Convenience – Check! Blown diet – Check!
  • There is some manner of debate among my friends about milkshake(s) and quality of the aformentioned CFA, and Zaxby’s.  Lemme just say this – if I’m in unfamiliar territory, I will track down a CFA milkshake like that bloodhound in that Blake Shelton song . . . but, and this is an enormous, Sir-Mix-a-lot sized but, if I am anywhere near Winter Haven, there is no debate – Andy’s Igloo has the greatest milkshake in the history of the world, and I will drive up to 30 minutes to acquire one over any of the others . . .
  • All of this leads to a recent conversation with the kids where I was talking about “spending local” and how Gilly and I like to shop at locally owned businesses and eat at locally owned restaurants, to which Will said “so like we should go to the Taco Bell in Winter Haven and not in Lakeland.”  Good talk, son . . . good talk . . .
  • I think dove season opens on Saturday and the kids and I are monumentally pumped.  I also think Gilly may be monumentally pumped that she’s going to have a quiet little Saturday at home . . .

14

Dear Liv,

It seems like yesterday I was rocking you in the middle of the night, playing Madden 64.

You were a tough sleeper – you hated it.  So I’d sit downstairs with you, all night, every night.  I’d rock you.  I’d lay you on a pallet on the floor.  I cranked that stupid hand-me-down swing so many times that it finally gave out, at 5:30 one Thanksgiving morning.  I loaded you up and headed off to the K-mart for an emergency replacement.

I remember taking you to your first doctor’s appointment.  Me and you.  I was a terrified 23 year old dad, with no concept of well rooms and co-payments.  I remember cradling you in my arms after you shrieked because that crazy nurse tried to weigh you.  I couldn’t believe it either.

I remember you playing in the bathtub with Coleman, when neither of you were big enough to get out.

I remember working day and night building you a swingset, doing everything I could to make it by Christmas morning, and barely squeaking it in under the wire.

I remember dance recitals, and basketball games.  Soccer matches and hunting trips.  I remember you catching your first redfish, off a dock at Little Gasparilla – you were wearing pajamas with pumpkins on them, and you were barely big enough to hold the pole and reel at the same time.

I remember you cussing at the tv over a Halo match when you were 3.  I remember every Saturday, every single one . . . I’d get up at the crack of dawn with you, and I’d lay on the couch, and you’d sit on my back and we’d watch cartoons.

I remember trips to Andy’s, and school field trips.  Taking you to Space Camp.  Having to get you to school early for “Good Morning Lake Shipp.”  Did I ever tell you how much I love taking you to school?  I wrote a blog post about it one time, remembering when I’d sing the Longhorn Song for you . . .

I remember our Harry Potter trip (if you’ve never read this post, you really should – I wrote it about you and Harry Potter years ago).  One of my proudest days as a dad, from the sense of being able to do something for my daughter that I knew she wanted.  I remember every fish you’ve ever caught, almost always followed by the question . . . “can we keep it?”

I remember boat rides, and birthday parties, and trick-or-treating and church . . . bunk beds and room makeovers . . . school dances and radio sing-a-longs . . . Horse drawn carriage rides to look at Christmas lights . . . running around DC with your $2 flip-flops . . . shrimp boils and peanut boils and frying more chicken than should be allowed, just to see your face light up . . . making you clean your room and do yard work and wash cars and load the dishwasher and say “yes ma’am” . . . teaching you to swim, and feigning disapproval at your bathing suit choices . . . taking you for a ride in a convertible . . . sleeping on the floor in the living room so you could have my bed . . . coaching you on Fantasy Football, only to have you leave me high and dry as the season progressed . . . eating oysters and sushi . . .

It’s all happened in about 15 minutes.  I blinked and you were grown.  No longer a little girl.  A young lady.  A young woman.

And now Dad gets to become more of a spectator, albeit one screaming and cheering and holding up signs from the sidelines . . . hooting and hollering and wishing and praying for my girl . . .

I remember looking down into that clear little bassinet thing they have you in at the hospital.  I remember loving you so much that it physically hurt, and wondering how that could be, since you were only a few minutes old.  And I remember you wrapping your little fingers around my big finger, and I knew I was yours, and you were mine . . .

Happy Birthday Liv . . .

Love,

Dad