KEITH MOCK and his son, Parker, scan the skies for doves on the opening day in the north zone.
With the combine eating corn stalks six rows at a time on Gulf Farms near Orrville, Ala., I had a flashback of a long past hunt that will forever be etched in my memory.
When I was 12 or 13, my late father and some friends headed to a corn field for a dove hunt. I’d never seen that many mourning doves in one place in my life. I don’t think I’ve seen that many since.
By the end of the hunt, my buddy, Danny Bland, and I ended up with some severely sore shoulders and a lifetime memory.
When Mike Eubanks and I drove around the farm last weekend to check out the number of birds before the opening-day hunt, the farmers who had leased the land were busy harvesting the crop. Huge carts were filled with the yellow grain that has become a go-to crop for farmers because of the demand for both food and ethanol production.
As with any grain-farming operation, there is waste grain that hits the ground, and all sorts of critters are quick to take advantage, especially doves.
With no cold fronts to move birds about, the farm had plenty of doves and the 60 or so hunters took advantage. Except for having to clean up one area where the grain cart had spilled corn, Eubanks was much more at ease for this year’s hunt with the updated planting guidelines issued by the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.
Those new guidelines did away with the zone planting recommendations for the state and simplified the procedure greatly. The new recommendations set the acceptable dates for top-sowing wheat as Aug. 1 through Nov. 30.
“I think it’s great,” Eubanks said of the updated guidelines. “It’s already made a difference to be able to plant on Aug. 1. I think it’s going to get folks who weren’t hunting because they were so scared about the regulations and nervous about it. I think it’s going to get folks back in the woods. It’s going to get young people back in the woods.
“We’ve already seen the effect with our hunt this year. People are feeling a lot better about it. We started planting our wheat on Aug.1, and we hunted over it on opening day. This makes it so much easier. We were so concerned for years about the interpretation of the rules.