"A DAY AT DOVE CAMP" by Luke Clayton Luke Clayton Graford, Texas - Theres deer camps and elk camps, why shouldnt there be DOVE camps? Well, there are! At least when my hunting buddies Bob Hood and John Bryan and I get together! Simply banging away at passing birds in a dove field for a couple hours might constitute a dove hunt for some folks, but when we take to the field in quest of these little gray ghosts, we want the big package, which includes an evening meal of fresh grilled dove breasts and a chance to once again celebrate Fall and the beginning of the hunting seasons! Hood and I arrived at the Holt River Ranch in mid afternoon, an hour or so before the birds begin flying. John Bryan was on station at his smoker, where a big lunch of pork, sausages, brisket and pinto beans was served to the morning dove hunters. The setting was an overhang of a big barn built around 1930. The gathering for the afternoon hunt was setting around on picnic tables and conversations consisted of about the same banter youll hear in camps everywhere. Where you gonna hunt this evening? What do you think this wind will do to the hunting? And, of course a mild discussion of the prowess of the 20 gauge over/under over the auto 12 gauge. Hood and I had made plans to spend the night there with John in the hunting cabin, situated a few miles off the main road. The evening meal was to be grilled dove breasts wrapped in bacon and baked beans. Veterans of many, many evening meals at hunting camps, Hood and I decided to take stock of provisions and make sure we had everything needed for the evening feast. On first check, it appeared we had everything except the dove, which we planned to harvest during the afternoon hunt. Jalapenos, toothpicks to spike the bacon to the dove breast, baked beans, bread, onion. You got the bacon, Bob? Naw, Thought you had it. A mini crisis had developed! Even two old salts like my buddy and I, with a combined century of planning evening meals at hunting camps had slipped up and forgot to bring one of the prime ingredients! Ill run in to town after the hunt and get a pound of bacon for the dove breasts, says Bob as we change into our camo, load hunting vests with shells and pack the Mojo dove decoys. Photo by Luke Clayton We chose to hunt a corner of a huge sunflower field in which Bryan had mowed shooting lanes. Big mesquite flats abutted the corner on two sides, creating a natural funnel for birds coming from feeding to roost sites. Hood had harvested a limit of dove from this exact location the day before and allowed me to hunt in the exact spot hed recently occupied. The Mojo spinning wing decoys was soon working its magic and I settled in next to a big mesquite tree for the afternoon shoot, my little 20 gauge Tri Star over/under at the ready. I managed to down a couple of birds quickly, both with the second shot. I spend some time a couple days before breaking clay targets but there is no substitute for the real thing and Ive yet to find a more challenging target than the dipping, diving morning dove, especially when pushed by a stiff wind as they were on this hunt. Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a fast moving dove coming toward the tree line at supersonic speed. One instant, I was staring at sunflowers, the next, and before I had time to mount my shotgun, the bird was upon me. Behind it a few yards, in hot pursuit was a Prairie Falcon, its intent the same as mine: dove for dinner! Both birds, the predator and its intended prey, were out of sight in the mesquites in a split second. I couldnt help but wonder the outcome of this desperate scene that is as much a part of the natural world as the sunflowers or, mesquite tree I was using for cover. I heard my friends shotgun popping around the corner and managed to add a few more birds to my game bag. We quit the field a little early, after all, I had birds to clean and Hood needed to make that short run into town for bacon! About the time I had the fire burning down to coals and the birds cleaned, Hood pulled up to camp and informed me the stores were closed and there was no bacon. Neither of us panicked, we had the makings of dinner; we just needed to decide the best way to prepare our very freshly harvested dove. They are too dry to just put on the grill without bacon; we need to figure something out. I said as we discussed the evening meal around the camp fire. How about that Chorizo Sausage you brought. Lets make sausage patties and place the dove breast on the sausage and smoke them! The sausage will baste the doves and keep them moist. Wouldnt that work? says Hood. An hour later, we were dining on what might just become a staple dish for upcoming dove camps! John Bryan says he still has openings for dove hunts at the Holt River Ranch www.holtriverranch.com this season and the shooting usually continues to be good, especially when the flocks of migrating doves heading south spot the huge sunflower fields on the ranch. For more information, call 940-452-3415. Listen to Outdoors With Luke Clayton at www.catfishradio.com and check out the new fishing videos at lukeshotspots.com We have a virtual library of Luke's stories here on the BOC. Just about anything you could want to read about the outdoors. Click here to see boat load of information!