Darden Dove Shoot A Scorcher!

Opening day of 2019 may have been the best shoot ever at the annual fundraising event in Taliaferro County.

Steve Burch | September 25, 2019

In the more than a decade since I have been a part of the annual BBQ and dove shoot fundraiser event hosted by Mr. Claibourne Darden, of Sharon, I have seen a range of field and shooting variables that dove shooters would find completely reasonable and acceptable.

Most years are good, some years are fair. Doves always taste good and mark the beginning of hunting season.

On occasion things will be disappointing for some reason or other, usually rain, either too much or too little during the growing period, or being rained out the day or two or three of and/or before the shoot.

On occasion a nearby baited field might relocate birds from an otherwise good field, but we have not experienced that sort of skull-duggery near Mr. Claiborune’s place.

And then, every now and then, there is that special day, a rare occurrence of natural perfection, that makes opening day the really anticipated day that it always is. In a patch of millet fields siding a railroad track south of Washington and just north of Sharon in Taliaferro County, perfection visited us that special and hot Saturday afternoon for the opening day of dove season on Sept. 7.

Yet this moment of perfection was to be witnessed by one of the smallest number of shooters we have seen in years. Rarely, but regularly, opening day of dove season occurs on the Saturday after Labor Day, rather than before. And predictably, each year that it occurs later, it surprises everyone and throws everyone’s schedule out of kilter. Such was the case this year, as those who have been there before and hope to return next year had made other plans this year. The field had plenty of shooters, but it was “roomy and comfortable.”

As we gathered for the always anticipated lunch in the pole barn, set with tables and table cloth and cold sweet tea and hot pans of chopped BBQ, an annual donation from the famous Fat Matt’s Rib Shack in midtown Atlanta, the heat was beginning to bear down. Usually the shade plus the breeze that always seems to flow through the barn keeps the setting comfortable for the meal and the introductions of all the shooters, plus those who only came for lunch. Everyone has to stand and introduce themselves. Special thanks go out to Darrel Roth, of Palmer Equipment Co. in Washington. Darrel said the blessing for us. It was our first shoot without the patriarch and founder, Mr. Palmer, since his passing. We appreciate their continued support through the years, and especially this year because they donated all the bottled water once again.

A beautifully prepared field, a shaded, uncrowded seat, the Dawgs on the radio, and the birds so thick you can’t keep your gun loaded.

We also remembered one of our chief benefactors, Lt. General Buck Bedard (retired) of Nevada. Gen. Bedard was the Deputy Commandant of the Marine Corps for planning and Operations from 2000 to 2003. It is a high honor that he remembers us each year and supports our efforts to enable and encourage youth in the outdoors.

Meanwhile, as the early afternoon continued to warm, the heat could be felt radiating down from the hot metal roof of the pole barn. Sitting in the shade drinking tea until about 3:30 seemed a good idea to everyone.

Finally, with all the social graces adhered to, and the safety briefing complete, the camo crowd headed for the clean, dry field. As it turns out, so did the doves.

Beginning about 3:38, the sweet smell of gun powder carried along on every curl and current of the breeze. Many a superlative term has been crafted to describe such a glorious afternoon of hot barrels, amazing aerial feats of escape, and superb examples of dish-ragged doves dropping stone cold from a blue afternoon sky. Among these terms are it sounded like a Young War, a Chinese New Year and a Barn Burner! They all applied this past Sept. 7 in Sharon. But it was also a day when Georgia saw near-record high temperatures. This particular hunt will be known as “The Scorcher.”

It was a great day. You shoulda been there.

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