Chesapeake Outdoors by C. D. Dollar

 Vol. 10, No. 36

September 5-11, 2002

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Doves Are Indisputable Indicators of the Onset of Autumn

It isn’t that calendars aren’t helpful. But other than reminding me about upcoming birthdays or dental appointments, I find little use for them to mark seasonal changes around Chesapeake Country.

Shifts in weather patterns and opening days of the hunting and fishing seasons are a far more reliable indicator of the passage of time. My wall calendar marks the fall equinox on September 23, a full three weeks after the opening day of the dove season. But for many of us, that first day denotes the traditional beginning of the hunting season and announces the arrival of fall. Similarly, the opening day of trout or rockfish season signals spring’s return.

This year, the Maryland dove opener fell on September 2, coinciding with the tail end of a cold front that brought several days of much needed rain and cooler temperatures that helped quench parched earth and offered respite from what seemed an eternity of oppressive heat.

Among the sunflowers and butterflies, a soft breeze cut through the stands of pine trees in the six-acre dove patch in Prince Georges County, in prime condition courtesy of the Brothers Colbeck, Kevin and Chris. Dedicated readers (all 25 of you, bless your hearts) of this column know them as my main hunting partners for the better part of the last decade. Yet it’s the growth of Kevin’s habitat restoration business, SMCG, that I find most impressive and encouraging. By year’s end, SMGC will have planted in Maryland and Pennsylvania about 1,000 acres of warm- and cool-season grasses through, in part, the Bay-saving initiative Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program. Benefits to water quality and wildlife habitat cannot be overestimated.

That they’d generously offer up a hunt for me and other lucky tagalongs also speaks to their desire to maintain tradition. While success must be measured to some degree by the bag limit, many of us know that taking game is only part of it. The subtleties of renewed friendships, camaraderie and tradition are perhaps more important.

Many people, including a well-known outdoor sage, ask how I can shoot a bird as lovely as a mourning dove. I plainly reply, not very well, actually. With their speeds of nearly 40mph and their eye-crossing aerial stunts, I’m lucky to even shoot 50 percent on a decent day.

Bay lovers ignore the calendar and follow the rhythms of the Chesapeake. It’s in our blood. Even the most recent transplants, if they pay a little attention to the world around them, can’t help but become enthralled at the change of seasons. Doves are indisputable indicators of the onset of autumn.

Fish Are Biting
The major blow that set in over the long weekend kept all but the most deranged anglers at the dock. By midweek, however, conditions improved substantially and reports of breaking fish and pods of sea trout from Drum Point to Swan Point flowed in. You’d be hard pressed not to have some success fishing, as nearly all species that visit our Bay are present. If chumming with the throngs at the Hill or Gas Docks is too much to tolerate, try Tilghman Point for flounder. Bottom fishing off Chinese Muds, Podickery Point and Cooks Point are just a few of the options.

Copyright 2002
Bay Weekly