Wish I were out with them.
Early September morning in North Texas. The gold of the sun contrasts like pyrite against the lapis lazuli sky, on this, the first morning after the hurricane churned past. The breeze is from the north, and it dries the streets and the dewy ground quickly. There are gunshots in the distance, and as usual, the radio crackles with hunter complaints.
It's dove season.
Noticing a couple of flights of mournng dove over the new-ish housing development near the edge of town, I begin to motor over toward the pastures at another frontier of my jurisdiction, improbably far from my position to be the source of the pops. But the north wind on a quiet morning does in fact blow the sound of the shotgun reports a good long way, and I find the hunters' pickups parked at the back end of a new housing development that's built of ghost streets to nowhere, without houses or landscaping or even street signs. A line of round hay bales denotes the edge of the large meadow next to the development. Out of habit, I stop and run the plates, in case I get a call later.
In the distance, I see a camouflaged man walking toward me, unloading a shotgun and putting his shells in his belt pouches. It's a nice gesture, but he doesn't have to do it; I know he wasn't hunting on the road, and I've never been afraid of a sober hunter who minds his muzzle, as he's now doing.
"You doing any good?" I ask out the window of my cruiser. I don't bother getting out of the car because I don't want to hold the man up. It's coming up on 8:00AM, and this is the Golden Hour for morning bird hunting. I also don't want to give the impression that I'm here to give him any trouble. Getting out implies that I'm here to do just that, or at least give him more attention than he might prefer.
"Aw, I got a few. Three dove, and a couple of pigeon. Dad says they're worth eatin', but I don't know," he answers as he extends his hand to shake mine. "Henry."
"Matt," I respond, shaking his hand. "You're dad's right. Look in the craw of those feral rock doves, and you'll see that they're eating the same stuff your mourning dove and white wing dove are eating, but with three times the meat per bird."
"Yeah, and there's no limit on 'em. I know that. They're meatier, to be sure. I have to hit them a bit closer in than the dove," he answers.
"With that 20 gauge, I don't believe I'd try to bring them down further than those hay bales, I say, pointing to the line about 20 yards away,"unless I were carrying bigger shot than 8 shot."
"I reload, and these shells hold an ounce and an eighth of #6 shot," he says, with a grin.
"Then I formally withdraw my previous comment," I say, laughing with him. I consider making some worry-wart comment about being wary of excessive pressures, and realize that it would be foolish. I don't know much about shotshell reloading, and I've no way to know his experience level with the skill, and I'd be a little peeved if some Johnny Law took it upon himself to question my own careful efforts at reloading rifle and pistol cartridges, without any evidence of ineptitude. For alll I know, this guy's a master. I grin inwardly, and let my unnecessary warning die in my throat.
Instead, I ask him if the choke is a Modified, and he glances at the barrel to report that it is. He's thus well-suited to the long-range passing shots that he gets in that half-section field he came out of.
About this point, a flight of dove comes over, and I point to them. He laughs and reminds me that he's unloaded. I suggest that he step a few steps off the newly-poured road right-of-way and reload, lest we be overcome by attacking migratory game birds. He looks around and asks if I thought that the new concrete streets would count as roads that he couldn't hunt from. I nod and admit that they probably are, and point out where the right-of-way is.
I ask him whose land he's hunting on, and he shows me a card for the lease he's signed on to, which includes the meadow. Wow. I never had a printed card from any land that I hunted on. A few times, I've carried a quick permission notice signed onto a scrap of paper. Once it was a napkin. I wave it away when he offers to hand it to me, and point out another bird flying the tree line a hundred yards distant.
"I don't want to keep you," I say. "Good luck and good hunting, sir."
"You too," he says. We both chuckle as we simultaneously admonish the other to "be safe."
I haven't driven a hundred yards away before I hear the bark of his Wingmaster. I turn to see him already walking to pick up another bird, as two more do aerobatics to fly away from him.
Wish I was out there with him.
I log a note on my clipboard, and move on.