KEVIN TATE: My favorite time of year is now very close at hand

A new flat of shotgun shells and a plan to put them into play are the opening notes for the music that marks the return of my favorite season.
Life has no shortages of hard edges and sharp corners. In their reflection, so many of the things that bring us comfort seem simplistic. A familiar song may seem trite in the light of day, but maybe the simple paths are so because they are clear, because they’re where we’re meant to be.
For me, the eventual return of cool weather, the changing of the seasons from summer to fall and the joys the year’s latter months bring are something I start looking forward to on the second hot afternoon of each new year – usually in March, it seems. By the time those days arrive again, life has left summer’s doldrums and returned to a routine.
Even now with the heat still upon us, it’s easy to feel a change in the weather on the way. Somewhere, bucks are getting ready to begin shedding their velvet. Somewhere someone is cutting corn and doves are massing around grain fields in harvest. Somewhere, the big ducks are getting ready to head south. Presumably, the teal are already on their way.
For most of us, the first shots of the fall will be fired a week from tomorrow when the first of Mississippi’s dove seasons begins.
One of the great all-access hunts found anywhere, opening day’s dove shoot brings hunters together in groups who may not have seen one another since the same occasion the year before, certainly not in a hunting environment.
Good place to start
When I was getting my start as a hunter, small game presented the only realistic opportunities to be found for me.
Deer hunting involved at least an hour’s drive, duck populations were at their lowest ebb in decades and if I was acquainted with any turkey hunters, I wasn’t aware of it. Doves, squirrels, rabbits and the occasional quail, then already almost as scarce as unicorns, formed the mixed bag that was available on a walking hunt from my back door. Still, I wouldn’t want to trade that for anything. There’s a peace to be found walking and hunting alone. The necessity to remain ready to shoot safely required just enough concentration to block everything else out, and there was always something new to see. It was also an easy way to stay in touch with the world, with the changing of the seasons, with nature’s own cycles.
It was something that lasted each year until the last dregs of winter passed. It was something that began each year with the first Saturday in September. It’s a time I’m ready to see return.
Kevin Tate is V.P. of Mossy Oak Productions in West Point.

Kevin Tate/Outdoors Writer