OUTDOORS COLUMN: Bird of peace, my foot!

Bob Kornegay

Bob Kornegay

Aw, such a sweet-looking little bird. The countenance and demeanor of the mourning dove leaves little doubt as to why it has traditionally been given the title, “Bird of Peace.”

The dove’s lilting call is intoxicatingly serene. Ancient paintings of cherubic children petting angelic doves are commonly seen in museums. When God sent Noah the olive branch, he chose a dove to deliver it.

Knowing all this, the thought of a mourning dove should lull me into peaceful relaxation. The sight of one should bring harp music to my ears. So, why does the dove turn me into a raving maniac with little regard for peace, serenity, or even sanity?

It has been decreed that sportsmen (and women) may spend a brief period every year waging regulated, civilized war on the doves that fly south in fall and winter. It is during this time that the dove’s true personality comes to the fore. During dove season, we quickly discover that the gentle bird of peace has a sadistic side to his personality.

The dove, it seems, long ago made a hard decision about its relationship with mankind. “I will,” the dove said, “dedicate my life and entire being to making wingshooters completely and utterly miserable. I shall fly with reckless abandon across fields and clearings, inviting shot after shot from those who foolishly insist they are adept with shotguns of small gauges. This I vow, fully realizing I may one day fall to that rare lucky soul who fires blindly and chances to throw a few lead pellets directly across my flight path.”

Thus, the dove became a suicidal psychopath and the ruination of many a would-be marksman.

The mourning dove is well named. I spend most dove seasons each year mourning my tremendous lack of hunting success. It’s always the same. I completely wear out a perfectly good shotgun and spend a mint on ammunition only to tally up at season’s end to find I’ve shot maybe three daily limits of doves. Three limits, that is, in about three week’s shooting. I killed a limit in one day just once. Well, actually I killed one short of a limit. The last bird I stole from Cletus Monroe’s game bag while he was off answering nature’s call. For me, though, that counts.

When I mention wearing out shotguns, I don’t necessarily mean shooting a gun into disrepair. Occasionally, after a particularly depressing dove hunt, I wear out a gun beating it repeatedly against the trunk of a sturdy tree. I know, of course, the gun is blameless, but the alternative is beating myself against the tree. I’m not that suicidal. Yet.

I’ve never heard a dove’s laugh, but I figure it’s a demented cackle like that made by Dr. Frankenstein after he threw the switch. In fact, this laughter is probably responsible for most dove deaths each season. The majority of doves that wind up in my buddies’ game bags are doubtless those overcome with hysterics after flying by my stand. They laugh so hard they let their guards down and get themselves shot by the next hunter in line. How else can I account for birds flying past me at warp speed then slowing to a snail’s pace when they’re out of range?

Doves have even been known to change ages-old migratory habits just to make a fool of me. That day I got lucky and shot that almost-limit, one of my “victims” was a banded specimen from Minnesota. Serves the dadgum Yankee right.

Through the years I’ve discovered one advantage to my ineptitude on a dove field, not counting, the fact that I’ll never be ticketed for exceeding the legal limit. The good thing about being a wingshot of limited ability is the excuse it gives me to imbibe heavily after a hunt. My buddies don’t even complain when I drain their stashes and never contribute any of my own.

The tears I shed after a dove shoot are enough to melt the hardest of hearts. No one begrudges me a couple of free drinks after watching me cry.