How many of you know, when you are invited by SHWAT™ to join a Remington Outdoor Company dove hunt on a ranch in Texas, you go? Never mind the fact that you’re pretty much exclusively a big game hunter. Or that although your archery skills may be quite polished, you’ve only ever shot a shotgun half a dozen times in your life. Especially, never mind that you’ve not hunted anything with wings, except turkey (and let’s face it, their flight is somewhat limited). Set all that aside. Recognize the incredible opportunity for what it is, make a few schedule adjustments, throw random things you think you may need into a suitcase and off you go!
What an unexpected treat! What an incredible adventure!
The plane touched down in San Angelo, Texas. Jessica Kallam from Remington, Barbara Baird of Women’s Outdoor News and I headed for the Wildlife Systems ranch. Once there we met up with John Wayne Taylor from Truth About Guns.
Upon walking to the main lodge (a mess hall, kitchen, lounge area) we were greeted with 1.5 inch ribeye steaks – cooked to perfection, and a literal stack of boxes shipped directly from Remington. My three companions commenced to opening containers. They skillfully assembled the polished new firearms revealed with the lifting of each cardboard lid. I stood there wide-eyed. It was like watching elves just before Christmas (if Santa’s toy shop looked more like the gun counter at Bass Pro Shops instead of the sparkly dolly-and-toy-train way it appears in all the storybooks). Within minutes there was a pile of Remington shotguns laid out across the table. VersaMax, V3, competition guns, 1100 American Classic, and tactical weapons.
Our first full day started off with a BANG (pun intended)! Breakfast, another home run by our chef Jason, was immediately followed by a round on the clays course. This is where my lack of experience was to become quite evident. Jess and Barbara helped me select a V3, 12 gauge, semi-auto shotgun, which I later found out was based on the length from crook of my arm to tip of fingers as well at the weight of the gun. They gave me some pointers. Positions were taken, shells were loaded and people started yelling “PULL!”. Clays were turning to dust left and right. Each one released was soon chased down by expertly placed shot.
Then it was my turn. I stood the way they stood. I held the gun as instructed and shouted out with all the confidence I could muster,” PULL!” SHING! BOOM… down floated the clay, safely landing on the ground. This was going to be harder than I thought.
After a dozen or so clean misses, Ted, one of our guides, came over to watch me. In his easy Texas drawl he instructed, “You got to LEAD the bird and follow through.” Oh! So the polar opposite of shooting a 600 pound animal through the trees with an razor sharp broad head at 50 yards. Got it!…
“PULL!” SHING! BOOM! POOF! Clay demolished! Then it got fun.
Before the morning was over, we had put close to 600 rounds of Remington 12 gauge shotgun shells through the smorgasbord of Remington firearms laid out in the back of the truck like a gun lover’s buffet. Few clays made it onto the Texas dirt in one piece. We were ready for the birds!
Lunch was eaten, boots were tightened and trucks were loaded. I had just gotten the hang of clays. But my feelings of accomplishment were short lived as I began to realize that doves were far more challenging than clays. Something about flight patterns, or lack thereof, speed, proximity, locating dead birds in the fields, rattlesnakes, endangered species, invasive species, bag limit…it was all bouncing around in my head with no pattern or logic, like a soccer ball in a group of 4-year-olds. The mental combat was already cranking up!
We arrived at the field just before the doves started moving for the evening. The birds’ course to their roost took them directly over the fields where we were set up. Like runners released at the starting line, in came the birds. I watched the other hunters wield their shotguns pulling the triggers and dropping birds. I stood frozen. What in the world? How were they doing this? I kept thinking about accidentally shooting the wrong kind of dove, or worse, dropping a bird that wasn’t a dove at all!
One of our guides, noticing my lack of shooting, hiked over and asked what was wrong. “I don’t know what a flying dove looks like.” I confessed. He reacted with a professional yet amused chuckle. “See that one coming in? THAT’S a dove.” My ah-ha moment! Here goes nothing!
I squeezed the trigger on my Remington V3…BOOM! Dove down and game on! The next day and a half were like that Duck Hunter video game, just change the ducks to doves and I was the hunter! With the four us of shooting it sounded like a dove combat zone. Over the course of the next few hours, we filled our bag limits. The evening was a whirlwind of guns, husks, sweat, disappointment from a missed shot and elation with the dropping of each bird. Then there was retrieving the birds after they were shot. This was the BONUS level of fun that they didn’t add to Duck Hunter! There is something that rewards the very core of who we are as hunters when you find your kill. When you hunt big game one tag typically means one animal, but this time I got to find 15 kills!
We all tagged out again the following day.
What an incredible experience! The people, the ranch, the food, our guides, the chef, the guns, the birds, Texas… This was one of those occasions that seem to whirl around you, then, just as fast as it started, it ends. You are left almost confused at what just happened, but you know the memories you made will last forever.
Opportunity for adventure isn’t gone, we just stop looking for it. Life “getting smaller” seems to happen slowly with little protest from the victim, much like a frog in boiling water. Its comfortable and safe until it’s killing you.
What’s the cure?
Say yes to adventure – the new, unknown, out of the ordinary! It may not be a fancy out of state hunt, it could be something as simple as taking a back road instead of the freeway, going on a friend’s hunt, cracking open the gun safe and hitting the range. Adventure is normal plus 1. You know your normal. Start adding one!