This is not just a shooting event on the unofficial beginning of the hunting seasons across the region. It is a time of camaraderie, barbecue lunches and, for youngsters, a rite of passage. Often the first shots of the day find three generations of a family huddled on a stand beside a dove field. Many boys and girls experience their first taste of hunting at such events.
Dove shoots are ideal for group interaction. The day usually begins with a cookout of barbecue, Brunswick stew, cole slaw and potato chips, washed down with sweet ice tea. Then the action moves to the edge of agricultural fields for the shooting.
A dove shoot is not actually hunting. It is more waiting for the birds. As the doves begin flying into the fields to feed, the shooters try to bring down the “gray rockets” as they streak across the sky. Often a field will have as many as 50 shooters around the edges.
While the hunters usually dress in camouflage to keep the birds from seeing them, this is not a sport that requires keeping silent. Warnings of incoming birds, shouts of encouragement and more than a few light-hearted jibes about missed shots will be heard.
While enjoyment is a big part of dove hunting, opening day events also can take on even more meaning. They can be used as fundraisers for good causes. A good example was held at the Darden Farm in Sharon, Georgia on opening day this year.
Farm owner Claibourne Darden is president of Darden Research Corporation in Atlanta. He has been hosting his opening day dove shoots for more than a dozen years on his Taliaferro County (despite the way it is spelled, the name is pronounced “Toliver”) property.
For the past few years the money raised at these events has gone to the SEEDs program sponsored by Georgia Outdoor News magazine through its GONetwork. SEEDS is an acronym for Sportsmanship, Ethics, Education, Dedication and Service. The funds are used for hunting, fishing and conservation events to get more children involved in the outdoor sports. This year the event raised more than $12,000.
Participants enjoy a hearty barbecue, a day of fun and, if they shoot straight, they can take home the ingredients for another meal or two of mourning doves as well!