I was busy wrapping up at work one September Saturday when the phone rang just before noon.
“Phillip, you gotta get out here,” a friend insisted. “Doves are flying like mad, and we're fixin' to throw a bunch on the grill.”
The “friend” told me that birds were coming into his dad's field by the hundreds, and that even I could get the limit. “Bring Daniel, too” he said.
My son, Daniel, was about 8-years-old at the time, and the invite sounded great to me. So I called Daniel and told him to get ready.
After I loaded up, I sorta' stretched the speed limit on my way home (apologies to the Hattiesburg Police Department and the Mississippi Highway Patrol), but I was really pumped!
When I picked up Daniel, I thought I might as well take my young Labrador retriever, Bear, to see if he could live up to his name – retriever.
I was floating on a cloud all the way to the hunt. After all, opening day of dove season is one of the most anticipated days of the year for Mississippi hunters, and I'm one of 'em.
Upon arrival, Daniel and I enjoyed hot-off-the-grill dove breasts, then we headed to a clump of brush on the edge of the field.
I'd shot a couple of birds and quickly found out that Bear was certainly not a dove retriever.
But that was okay.
At least the dog didn't try to eat the birds I'd shot, and the birds were really starting to flock in. Daniel and I were loving it … until about a half-dozen men in khaki uniforms stepped out into the field at various points. Game wardens!
Since it is against the law to shoot migratory birds without a plug in your gun, that's the only thing I had to worry about.
I couldn't remember if I had replaced it after turkey season or not. Upon checking, I found that I had, so I had no worries when an officer finally got around to Daniel and me.
“Sir, did you know you are hunting over a baited field?” the officer asked politely.
When he asked for my license, I was a nervous wreck. Still, I had knowingly done nothing wrong, with emphasis on “knowingly.”
“No, sir,” I answered even more politely.
I explained that I had walked the field before shooting to see if there was any grain on the ground, and that I didn't find anything.
That's the truth, because I was aware that it is my responsibility to check the field.
The officer genuinely felt bad for me, especially since I had my young son with me.
But regardless of whether I knew or not that the field had recently been baited, he had to do his job, and I can respect that.
Besides, when all was said and done, the landowner felt so bad for his guests that he insisted he pay our fine, which he did.
That was “all she wrote” as far as that dilemma was concerned.
Well, not really.
You see, a reporter from the newspaper I was writing for at the time got wind of my misfortune and she couldn't wait to write about it so the whole world would know.
It would have been real embarrassing but, fortunately, that newspaper had a total of maybe two readers, which is why I am boring you from the pages of this popular newspaper, The PineBelt NEWS.
Hunters, and wannabe hunters, believe it or not, there is a lesson to be learned from this Weekly Mistake.
With dove season only a couple of weeks away, you must prepare now!
That means inspecting your gun for malfunctions, patterning it and, of course, making sure it has a plug.
Check your license to be sure it is still valid.
As for regulations on hunting doves, I could write (actually, plagiarize) a book on dove regulations.
My best advice to you on that subject would be to visit the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries & Parks website.
If you're like me (God help you),you might need a law degree to understand parts of it, but with state and federal regulations involved, the MDWFP website is your best bet to stay within the bounds of the law.
Good hunting, and until next time, whether you're a dove hunter or not, get out and enjoy what Mississippi's great outdoors has to offer.
You might need a portable air conditioner, but have fun, be safe, and take a kid with you … every time you can.
PineBelt News outdoor reporter Phil DiFatta may be reached by email at email@example.com. You can also text him photos and story ideas, with contact info, to (601) 596-4475.