A Few Quick Dove Suppers
My dad was an excellent dove shot. He had learned that skill from my Granddaddy Harrell who was one of the best shots I have ever seen. My Granddaddy shot an old L.C. Smith 12 gauge shotgun with "rabbit ear" hammers. He had shot it so much and it was so old that the barrels were very thin at the muzzle. One could tell exactly where he was in the dove field by the unique sound of that gun. When shot it had a unique thin ringing sound to it. Bwaanngg! Most of the time a dove hit the ground when you heard that ringing sound when he fired that old gun. He was a good shot. Daddy was equally as good. When he drew down on a dove it was all over but the shouting. They would fold up like a limp wet washcloth. He would just about wear me out going to get them for him as I was his "bird dog" until I started shooting a shotgun at age fourteen. Anyway, we were all dove hunters in South Georgia. Lots of birds in those grain fields after the harvest.
I wasn't big enough to play football even though I wanted to. I was also not that good at baseball even though I participated at one point in my life. But, because of my dove shooting heritage and plenty of practice, I became a deadly shot. It was no problem for me to hit a dove coming by at about 50 miles an hour at forty yards. Grease up the frying pan! I got better and better and when I was about twenty two years old, I could outshoot both of my family mentors. I shot a little Winchester Model 12. It was a 20 gauge with a 26" improved cylinder barrel. Deadly little thing. One day we were at a dove shoot outside Tifton. About fifteen men were there and the doves were everywhere. I located down in a wiregrass bottom near the edge of the field on the tip of a point that jutted out into the field. It seemed that every dove wanted to enter the peanut field right over that point where I was standing. It was like a small war in that dove field that day. When it was over we were all standing up near a tobacco barn talking about how many doves we had. Everyone had a good day and had bagged plenty of doves. Most had not stayed within the limit which was abut 16 birds. One man said;; "I don't know who was down there in that bottom but he didn't miss a shot." "Who was that?" I told them it was me and they all wanted to know how many I had and how did I learn to shoot like that. I had killed more than my daddy did that day. Later on Dad and I were talking and he said: "When you can consistently beat me in the dove field, I am going to quit!" I didn't believe him. I thought he was just joking but he was deadly serious. He did just that!
Well, many years later when I was the Pastor of Metter Baptist Church in Metter, GA, I had the best year of dove shooting in my lifetime. I thought Tift County Georgia and the surrounding area had the best dove hunting in the whole world. But, Candler County where Metter is located was better. In the fall of 1980, I had the best year of my life in the dove field. I kept my shotgun, shells and camouflage hunting clothes in the trunk of my car. I could get anywhere in Candler County within 15 minutes and I would often get invitations to a shoot with little notice. I would drive to the field, pull my hunting clothes on over my suit, tuck my dress pants into my boots and take off. All the men in Metter knew of my dove exploits and how much I loved to hunt and I got a lot of these invitations. My hunting partner was the Chairman of our deacons, J.D. Henry. We hunted two or three times a week at some big shoot or even little shoots we were invited to. The season was so good, I believe that we could have stood in the parking lot of a grocery store and killed the limit. It was a fantastic year. J.D. and I would each take a 25 pound grocery bag with us and on most days we would fill them both up (this was before I became convicted about the limit.) I have never seen so many doves. At times I would have two shotguns with me because I would shoot out of my 20 gauge shells and then go at a 16 gauge I was using. At some shoots I would get tired of shooting and just quit. Well, to put it mildly, it was a fantastic season for dove shooting.
One morning I was listening to a report on Channel 3 out of Savannah, GA. The announcer was telling about a man in Savannah who had been fined $5,000 for having twenty birds over the possession limit in his freezer. The possession limit was 30 birds. So he had 50 birds and was fined $5,000. I thought to myself,...hmmmm, man that's bad. Only twenty birds over the legal possession limit and they charged him $5,000. Well, I was mulling this over in my mind while sipping my morning coffee. Suddenly, it seized me! My ears tingled! I felt cold all over! My head swirled as my internal computer processed what I had just heard. You see, J.D. Henry and I had 750 doves in my freezer! Seven Hundred and Fifty!!! In all of my "put togethers" and all of my dove hunting experience, no one had ever told me about a legal possession limit which is thirty birds. My soul....we had 720 birds over the legal limit. I picked up the phone and called J.D. "Are you watching t.v.?" "Did you just hear the story about the man in Savannah who got fined $5,000 for having fifty birds in his freezer; twenty over the possession limit?" He had not seen the story so I related it to him and then said: "We have got to have a few quick dove suppers!!" We talked for a few minutes and then came up with a plan. What did we do? We had a few quick dove suppers.
The church of which I was Pastor at the time has a social hall and all the equipment for a large supper. So, we invited some very special groups. We invited the Game Warden and all his deputies. We invited the Sheriff (who was a member of the church) and his deputies. The County Commission and the City Commission were also included. All these came to huge dove supper as well as many from the church and community who had received an invitation from J.D. We had a ball! Our cooks prepared 357 doves in one big pile on a huge platter. Some were fried (the best way), and some were smothered (too messy). Fried doves with grits which are covered with good ole' dove gravy, biscuits and cold, sweet tea....not that's a meal fixed for a king. Anyway, we ate up 357 doves that evening and the game warden and none of his deputies ever said: "Where did all these doves come from?" They just didn't ask questions and they enjoyed one of the best and biggest dove suppers I can remember. But.....J.D. and I had about 400 doves left in the freezer! Sooooo, we had two more big suppers open to anyone who wanted to come plus some that were especially invited. A friend in the church was the manager of the local motel and it had a large diving room. He prepared those dove suppers for us and allowed us to hold them in the motel dining room. In the end we had eaten up those 750 doves and when the last supper was finished we let out a collective sigh of relief.
Not long after that the Lord convicted me of killing over the limit of doves. He said; "Bill, if you are going to instruct your people to obey the law, you have got to do it yourself." Well, of course, I agreed and from that point on, I never shot over the limit. Now, that was a hard discipline to adopt because it cut a lot of my afternoon outings very short. Many times I would get my limit in thirty minutes or less and have to go home whereas before I just shot doves until I either got tired of or ran out of shells. Anyway, the 1980 dove seasons were the most successful of my life and they resulted in some valuable lessons learned and they also resulted in A Few Quick Dove Suppers. Whew!
William F. Harrell