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September 2009 cover image hunting dog

From the Pen of Carter P. Smith

Theon. Walburg. Schwertner. Jarrell. Corn Hill. Bartlett. I suspect these communities aren’t on everyone’s list of places to see and visit, but they most certainly were on mine as a kid growing up in central Texas. Our family owned a little blackland farm in that part of then-rural Williamson County. We shared the countryside with a large lot of hard-working, mostly Czech farmers who tilled the blackland soil to produce grain sorghum, cotton and corn. On the side, they all raised a few cows for beef and milk.

Come September, the population grew quite a bit, at least in the late afternoons and weekends. The sight of men in overalls was augmented substantially by men in a little different outerwear — camouflage. Dove season had finally come around again, and those crop fields, pastures, treelines, sunflower and ragweed patches, and occasional creek bottoms offered some pretty fair wing shooting if you caught the birds just right.

I should know. I spent every moment of discretionary time I had patterning the feeding, watering and roosting flights, and ultimately traipsing all over that farm trying to position myself just right when the birds came by. I’d start early and come home late. If the birds were going to sunflowers in the upper field, I was there or soon headed there. If they were coming to water, I was at the stock tank. If they were flying down the creek, I would crouch under a favorite mesquite tree to await them.

In my sweet mother’s eyes, I probably should have worried more then about sunscreen, snakes, ticks, drinking enough water, remembering not to inadvertently spray the farmhouse roof with pellets and getting my homework done. But I didn’t. Getting a limit of doves was important for bragging rights back at school, but grew less and less so as I got older. Ultimately, it was more about an excuse to get outside, to unwind, to spend time with close friends and to explore and enjoy a piece of Texas I dearly loved.

I smile just thinking about it.

September marks a rite of re-entry for many of us who enjoy time afield. Dove and teal season are open. In October, the bows come out, and in November, so do the rifles. In fact, throw in quail, ducks, geese and turkeys, and there is quarry to pursue all the way through May. If you are interested in hunting feral hogs and exotic animals, you can do it year-round.

Our state has around a million hunting enthusiasts. Come September, 300,000 or so of them will start to enjoy what is unquestionably one of Texas’ great pastimes — dove season. If you are one of them, I ask you to do four simple things: Be safe, respect the property on which you hunt, honor our game laws and take someone with you, particularly a child, who otherwise wouldn’t get to go. They will be forever grateful, and so will you.

Thanks to all of you for caring about Texas’ wild places and wild things. They need you more than ever.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department mission statement:
To manage and conserve the natural and cultural resources of Texas and to provide hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation opportunities for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.

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