The dove shoot offered practical learning to boomer Ansel Head and respite from the tedious theory presented at the Birmingham University School.
Doves feed in recently harvested grain fields in the early afternoon. Before the action starts, hunters spread out being careful to stay far enough apart so that an errant blast with bird shot would do no harm to others. The number of hunters depends upon the size of the field. Hosts supervise the deployment and since Head’s grandfather owned the land, attracted and fattened the doves on wheat, and issued the coveted invitations, his father and grandfather were in charge.
Thirty or so hunters gathered for lunch at the camp house near Eutaw for barbecue sandwiches and tea. No beer and whiskey were allowed; violating this rule meant immediate expulsion with no return possible.
Around 1:00, the hunters donned their camouflage gear, un-sheathed their guns, and headed for the field. Head’s father was an experienced general with a keen eye for where the action would take place, but protocol dictated that the host not claim the prime spot for himself. Instead he posted his best friend, Dr. Arthur, at the dove’s rendezvous point into the field, then thirty or forty yards down field he stationed the only boy in the crowd, his son, and then another thirty or forty yards in himself. The other hunters were positioned a good deal away from this line for safety reasons or so they were told. Etiquette had been satisfied and in any case the guests, being merely privates in the Hill-Head army, did what they were told.
Dr. Arthur was a terrible shot. Like other well educated people, he believed more schooling was the cure. One teacher taught him to shoot a BB through the center of a metal washer thrown into the air; he got very good at this but still couldn’t hit a bird.
It wasn’t long before the doves began to marshal on the horizon. Then coming in low and fast in flights from two to twenty, they headed straight for the rendezvous point.
“Behind you, Arthur”, yelled Head’s father. Dr. Arthur’s twelve gauge Browning automatic loaded with super X eights spit fire: Boom, boom, boom in rapid succession blanketing the air with hot lead, but no dove fell. Ansel Head’s double barrel twenty gauge was next in the flight path, but it inflicted minimal carnage. By now the feathered foes were at full throttle, taking evasive maneuvers with rapid and random changes in heading and altitude but to no avail. The father’s sixteen gauge double barrel was always good for one, usually two, and if flight paths crossed too close together, three.
This drama continued, with the outcome never in question, until an hour or so before dusk when surviving doves, those that were the fleetest and bravest, surrendered the field and retired to their roosts exhausted and hungry. But no so the hunters. Back at the camp house, Margaret had prepared a great Southern feast. While Lewis Amison (Head’s possum hunting teacher) and his friends picked, gutted, and divided the days kill into equal shares, the huntsmen enjoyed steak, fried chicken, potato salad, fresh vegetables, corn bread, biscuits, and rice pudding. Again, no beer or whiskey was allowed even though the guns were safely stored in their scabots.