I've had the privilege of joining my good friend at this ranch for the last few dove openers. He has a wonderful 250 acre spread in Northern California that he has cultivated to attract a variety of wildlife. To me, he lives the principles of being a "hunter conservationist". He has given back far more than he could ever take on that beautiful parcel of land.
There are usually 5 or 6 guys in camp - some comprised of recent friendships and some long time pals. One of our favorite rituals to pass the intense heat of the afternoons is a trip to the Redneck Riviera. The Riviera consists of a creek bed that runs through the property that is usually nothing more than a trickle by early September. A few deep pools nestled under the shade of cottonwood trees provides the perfect setting for a lawnchair, a cooler, and of course your shotgun (you never known when a dove will come screaming down the gully). A dip in the creek, the crack of a bottle cap, and the shade of a tree is all you need to achieve a serious case of the afternoon head-bobs.
Supper is the main focus after the evening shoot, with a collection of wild game hitting the BBQ along with a few of that day's harvest serving as the appetizer. One of my favorite appetizers is the spicy dove kabobs that we devour before plunging head first into the venison steak, wild boar sausage, and duck salami. Its a carnivore feast, and we love every minute of it.
After dinner is a great time to recollect about the day's shoot. Although, I have noticed a pattern tends to emerge as the evening wears on. The more beverages that are consumed, the more everyone seems to have made amazing shots on one of those dancing, aerial acrobats of the sky. The stories of missing the easy passing shot get replaced with feats of heroism and Kurt Gowdy style wing shooting. I still can't figure out why this happens....
As the sun melts into the top of the mountain, we always take a moment to remember how fortunate we are to live in a country that allows us to pursue our passion. We toast those who have passed before us, many of whom were responsible for making sure that we had the good fortune to make hunting a part of the fabric of our soul. This year one of the first youngsters will be joining us at 'camp', the beginning of our own plan to ensure that we steward those that will come after us. It will be an exciting time for that youngster, and certainly calls us back to hunt, eat, and live!