As a hunter, when you hear Arizona in September, I would imagine your mind goes straight to Elk; And rightfully so. Growing up in a family that didn’t hunt big game, September, to me, meant taking to the “dove fields” as I like to call them. Still to this day, I anxiously wait for September 1st to roll around as it’s somewhat of a holiday to me, regardless of what tags I have in my pocket. I know that for many it’s hard to understand why anyone would hang up their bow for an evening, sacrificing their chance at a deer, turkey, bear, or even a coveted bull elk, to go shoot a little bird. As I’ve been fortunate to grow into a dedicated hunter of all species, I find myself in a constant attempt to justify my need to take time off to sit in an open field, waiting for my not so “filling” quarry.
It was just recently while hunting with a new friend and fellow wing-shooter that it all made perfect sense. I say new friend because we met through Facebook when he posted that he had recently been stationed at the Air Force Base in town and was looking for a decent place to shoot doves. I sent him an invitation to hunt with my dad and I opening weekend, which he accepted.
Just a few days later, the 3 of us were sitting in the shade of a telephone pole enjoying the view of a freshly tilled field with a farm house in the distance. The expected pressure I had put on myself to provide a good shoot was quickly relieved by my new found hunting buddy’s contagious appreciation for simply being in the field. He explained that he missed all of the previous hunting season and majority of the past seasons due to deployments so just sharing the blind with some guys in the field was more than enough.
By the end of the evening we had killed our limits, but more importantly we had a phenomenal time cutting jokes, telling stories, and relentlessly giving each other a hard time over missed shots. As I reflected on the evening’s events while driving home, I realized that for the first time since the previous spring, I was completely relaxed. I wasn’t worried about filling a tag, getting the kill shot on film, or taking a perfect picture sure to please the sponsors. I was simply in the field to have a good time and nothing else. Now don’t get me wrong, I love all of the tasks I mentioned above and am grateful everyday that I am in a position to need to think about those things, but there is an added pressure associated with them; so to sit in wait of a few doves felt like a tropical vacation without cell phones.
Being such a task oriented activity, pursuing big game seems to keep you on a never ending emotional roller coaster with the chance of a great reward at the end, which is why so many of us can’t seem to get enough of it and find ourselves cold, tired, hungry, and in some cases, broke, year after year. On the flip side, success chasing small game is usually gauged by the people you were able to share the hunt with. I now realize that my passion for wing shooting is not driven by the chance of a heavy game bag, but rather the camaraderie of the sport.
I’m blessed to have many great relationships in my life, many of which are the result of hours spent sitting in an open field with a farm house or two in the distance, waiting on “just a little bird” and that to me is worth more than any wall hanger out there.