Labor Day weekend might be the busiest single weekend in the state of Mississippi, regarding outdoor activities. One group of outdoorsmen are finishing up the annual alligator season, one group is beginning the migratory dove season, and the rest of us are going on vacation. It should be mentioned that the gator hunters might be pulling double duty and shooting doves, as well. Either way, the state is buzzing with activity, and I don’t envy the folks that work for the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks.
I’m usually amongst the group that’s finishing up alligator season. I haven’t been dove hunting for the opener in longer than I care to mention. Each year, I feel like I have the intentions to be in a field with a shotgun and at least a case of shells for the first Saturday in September, but something usually affects my plans. So, this year I figured I’d do things a little different. Since I finished my alligator season a week ago, I decided to go on vacation.
You thought I was going to say that I was going dove hunting, didn’t you? I’ve killed alligators on Labor Day weekend, and I’ve killed doves on Labor Day weekend, but I’ve never been on vacation during Labor Day weekend. Being the great outdoorsman that I am, I thought I’d remedy that. Upon returning, it might be the last time that I ever do that.
The trip was great. We took the kids to the beach for the weekend and hung out with family. The weather cooperated and the beaches were nice. However, the traffic was almost unbearable. Louisiana, you know I have a love-hate relationship with you, but the next time I decide to go to the beach for a weekend, I’m gonna need you to stay home. Folks, when I tell you that the traffic was bad, I mean bumper to bumper and not moving on the Mobile Bay Bridge bad. Even coming home was brutal. I thought that I was being smart by waiting to leave until 2:30 or so, thinking that the Pelican State had returned home by then. I was wrong. What was supposed to take us three hours took over four to get back home. The only thing that kept me sane while stuck on that bridge was knowing that all of those people were angry about the LSU football team losing to Florida State the night before, and that made me somewhat content for the moment.
While stuck on the bridge in a seemingly never-ending sea of purple and gold stickers, my mind began to wander about dove hunting. How long has it really been since I’ve shot a dove? The last few years have either been consumed by alligator season, or a hurricane. Dove hunting also takes one of two things: a lot of preparation, or a friend that has done the work and invited you along. Since I’m not one to do a whole lot of prep work to dove hunt, I’ve relied on some friends over the years. And, thankfully, I’ve got some pretty dang good friends.
Out of the few dove hunts that I’ve been on in the last ten years, one in particular sticks out the most. A few years back, my uncle called me and told me to come over for the dove opener. He had planted a field and apparently had enough birds showing up that he felt comfortable inviting me to come shoot with them. You’ve got to remember, I’m a killer. If it’s in season and I’m around, it’s probably going to die (insert eye roll). Anyway, he knew that inviting me would probably, at the very worst, result in maybe one bird being shot off of a power line, thus not affecting the population very much. So, I packed my gun, and a case of shells, and headed to Lawrence County the night before the season opened.
Now, those of you who know me know that I can’t eat just anything. I’ve got a fairly weak stomach. The night before the hunt, my aunt cooked hot wings. They were hot. They were delicious. I tanked up on as many as I could stuff down my throat, not thinking of the dangers that could potentially follow. After grubbing out, we hung out a while, then went to bed. So far so good. I woke up the next morning, got dressed, and ate a quick bite before going out to hunt. The field was right by the house, so we didn’t have to drive anywhere…thank the Lord.
We got out to the field just before daylight. Sure enough, as soon as the sun came up birds were flying everywhere. I made my patented “shoot one of the power line shot” and was feeling good about everything. Then, out of nowhere, my stomach groaned loudly. Quickly, I returned to the house with my bowels screaming. I’m glad the house wasn’t too far away, or I would have been in a bind. From inside, I could hear shotgun blasts that sounded like WW3 had began in Lawrence County. However, the real war had begun inside the house. I was in a battle of life and death in that tiny bathroom and all I could do was cuss my aunt, and those hot wings.
Sweat poured down my face, and pain like no pain before took over my body. I thought momentarily, “I might not survive this.” My entire body was hot. I’ve never been on fire before, but I can imagine that it feels something like this. And if that’s true, being on fire has to be one of the most painful experiences known to man. After winning my own personal war, I returned to the battlefield outside only to find that limits had been shot and there weren’t really any more birds flying. I settled for one bird and watched them clean their doves, all the while laughing at my misfortune. To this day, I no longer eat hot wings.