Learning continued for the young hunters on the opening morning of dove season even after they fired their last shots and put away their shotguns.
A clutch of a half dozen boys and their dads picked up spent shells, snack wrappers and collected the four or so doves they’d shot.
Arkansas dove season
Sept. 2-Oct. 22, and Dec. 8-Jan. 15.
The daily limit is 15 mourning or white-winged doves. Possession limit is 45.
There is no limit on Eurasian-collared doves.
Source: Arkansas Game and Fish Commission
“We call these doves game,” Chad Yoes of Bentonville, one of the dads, said to the boys. “But what other names could we call them?
“How about quarry?” Yoes asked. “Prey,” one of the boys answered.
The lesson on synonyms and more took place in a classroom of wide open spaces and woods west of Decatur. Some 20 adults and youngsters welcomed the first hunting season of autumn during a dove hunt at Spring Valley Anglers Rod and Gun Club.
The club’s lodge and cabins are situated along Spavinaw Creek in west Benton County. They’re surrounded by acres of fields and forest where members hunt deer, wild turkey and, today, doves.
Yoes, Jeremy Wilson and Zach Simpson hunkered with their boys on folding stools under big oak trees on the eastern edge of a rolling pasture. The sun would rise behind them in about 30 minutes. They sat in the dark, talked and waited.
Adam Maris owns the club and welcomed hunters as they began arriving at 5:30 a.m. It was anyone’s guess how much action there’d be once legal shooting time came a half hour before sunrise, about 6:22 a.m.
“These are migratory birds. You never know what you’re going to get,” Maris said. “About a week ago there were 300 to 400 doves here. We don’t know what this cold front is going to do to them.”
Hunting talk turned to last year’s opening day when an earthquake was felt in Arkansas and Oklahoma. The ground shook about 7 a.m.
“You could feel it for about two seconds,” Maris said. “The birds started getting up, and we had a good shoot.”
Zach Simpson sat with his sons, Ethan, 5, and Caleb, 15, while dawn washed over the field. Ethan carried his BB gun, but the lad knew it was a “real” gun, as real as the shotguns the others carried.
“The only difference is your gun has one BB and our shotgun shells have lots more,” Simpson said.
The first shots came from the far side of the field. The group saw a pair of doves cartwheel to earth, followed by a sweet, pungent aroma.
“You know what you’re smelling?” Simpson asked Caleb. “That’s gun powder.”
Action across the field made the boys antsy, especially Ethan. Caleb, too, was eager to shoot. More shotgun blasts and the boys wanted to move.
“You’ve got to be patient. It’s just like fishing. You always want to be on the other side of the river,” Simpson said.
Lessons included wildlife identification.
“That’s not a dove,” Caleb said of a flying bird. “He’s flapping his wings too slow.”
Adults stressed firearms safety.
“Whenever we’re sitting here like this, you always have your gun on safety,” Simpson coached.
Over at the next oak tree, two dads watched a quartet of doves fly their way. Hudson Wilson, 11, raised his shotgun and fired. The dove landed in a tuft of grass by the tree.
Action eventually picked up on their side of the field. Shotguns popped and more lessons were taught. One was how hard it can be to hit a dove. They fly fast, sometimes darting and diving over the field.
“So the limit is 15 doves and let’s say we’ve got four. How many more can we get?” one of the dads asked.
A limit may come another morning, but the boys were happy with the doves in their bag. Two of the youngest started playing a zombie game with two of the birds, but an older boy put the brakes on that.
“Those birds are trophies, not toys,” he told the little ones.
The group shuffled through the field to an ATV for their return to the lodge. Voices faded as they wandered from the oaks.
The last sentence heard?
“Dad, can we come back tomorrow?”
Flip Putthoff can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @NWAFlip
Sports on 09/12/2017