She certainly has been out of sorts this year for seemingly the entire country, with rain, drought, heat, and everything in between. Her bad mood and cantankerousness have made our upcoming dove season questionable at best.
A deluge of daily rain seemed to be the norm the entire spring, but in spite of that, all was going very well for our dove fields. That is, until that day, June 24, when dangerous thunderstorms rolled through the county and a microburst came crashing down on our field, just as if it had a big target on it.
Our beautiful sunflowers were in full bloom, standing tall and proud one minute, and the very next, flattened to the ground with little hope that they would survive the severe beating they took. If that was not enough, her rage continued and after days of relentless rain, the rows and rows of sunflowers began the inevitable rotting process, which was another blow to our season, since doves look for dry, sandy fields.
With unrestrained power, she punctuated her message to us with a series of exclamation marks with a smackdown on the most beautiful 250-year-old live oak, which was situated near our pavilion—now, truly “gone with the wind.”
Our dove club owner and manager, Dale Shelley, was heartbroken when he had to tell his 30 members what had happened. Honey Dove Camp is Dale’s passion—and second only to his love for his family and of course, Skip, his trusty companion. But, with determination and dedication to the club, Dale has not given up.
“With an 80% loss of our sunflowers, it will not be a dove season that we all hoped for. Sunflowers are always preferred over other food sources such as corn and millet,” Dale explains. But Dale is not one to give up: He has planted the last available brown-top millet he could find as a supplement to the destroyed sunflowers. “We still have the bare ground strips for distribution of silage cut corn. The club can take advantage of the regulations from DNR, as we may top sow wheat, later in the season,” Dale states.
Honey Dove Club formed around 1979 when Dale was a full-time farmer by the coaxing of a good friend who was a good wing shot. The first sunflower field was a tremendous success, with doves flying in like gnats. Over the years, a group of hunters return every year, somewhat like the doves return, but they come back to renew friendships, catch up with old buddies, and sometimes meet some new ones. We have been members for four years, and we can’t imagine not being part of this amazing club.
As Mother Earth’s rainy temper tantrums subside a bit, her now fiery attitude reminds us that it is summer, and dove season will start out with temperatures in the high 80s and 90s. With shade being at a premium, preparing for scorching temperatures is an absolute must when hunting doves. The wide fields offer no shade from the sun, unless you are lucky enough to draw a stand near a tree line. And only if her mood improves will she provide us with some nice cloud cover and yes, those occasional glorious breezes that signal fall is not that far away.
Guarding against heat stroke is something that I take very seriously. I am one of those people who have a hard time cooling down, as I don’t perspire very much.
Here are some tips I adhere to, to make sure I am protected from the sun and heat since “Mother” does not always know best:
Wear clothing that is well ventilated. Lighter colors are preferred, but since you want to be camouflaged, you need to wear tan to khaki colors to blend in with the surroundings. Of course, a hat and polarized protective glasses are essential
Do not overdo heavy sunscreen, which will block your pores.
Bring plenty of water—I add Arbonne PhytoSport Complete Hydration to my water bottle, which has a blend of six electrolytes to support optimal hydration.
I always have a cooling towel. Mission.com makes my favorite, and of course it comes in camo pattern. You simply soak the towel in water, snap it, and put it around your neck. It will instantly cool you down.
I bring along Evian facial spray, which is made with natural mineral water and gives me a quick pick-me-up.
Don’t overpack. I carry my shells in a backpack (usually I take at least three boxes), which is a lot easier than carrying them in a dove pail.
Wear a lightweight-hunting vest. This allows you to carry ample shells so that you don’t have to wear a heavy shell bag, and keeps you from having to bend down get shells from your pail.
We are counting down the hours to opening day of dove season, the South’s most social hunting experience. Let’s just hope that Mother Nature will bless us with mild temperatures, clear but slightly cloudy skies, and those occasional, glorious breezes that remind us that fall is not that far away.