Herb Parsons, legendary Winchester exhibition shooter from Somerville, Tenn., once said, “Go hunting with your boy today and you won't have to hunt for him tomorrow,” and he practiced what he preached with sons Lynn and Jerry.
So opening day of dove season found me hunting with Alfred Burton on his Sugar Farm at Michigan City, Miss. It was one of those hunts that will linger in my memory bank for years to come.
There were hunters from Memphis, Tenn., Kevin Cleveland and his son, David, and from Batesville, Miss., Dennis King and his three sons, Ryan, 14, Sean, 11, and Dennis, 7. (Dennis, who was hunting with a BB gun, “My daddy will knock them down and I will finish them off.”
Also, from Memphis was John Caradonna and his son, A.J., 12, along with the Grisanti gang, headed by patriarch Ronnie and his two sons, Alex and Jud. Jud had Will, his 12-year-old son who did some mighty powerful shooting that Parsons would have been proud of. Ronnie and his two boys have one of the finest, if not the finest restaurant in Memphis.
The hunting was done over sunflowers planted by Vernon Butler of Michigan City. He has his own formula of planting and preparation, which he wouldn't share with me. Whatever he did, the doves were everywhere feasting on the seeds.
We arrived at the field at 3:30, and most everyone limited out by 6:00, all blue darters, no collared doves. The hunt reminded me of the days when I hunted around Ramer, Tenn., back in the late '50s before dove hunting became such a commercial operation.
Back then, we hunted silage fields or corn crops where hogs and cows had been turned loose. Then one could hunt into December in the corn crops and kill big old fat, toothsome doves. It was in the mid-'60s when dove hunting became so popular and people started charging for hunting, at least in this neck of the woods.
The socializing started Friday night with a catfish dinner, and after the Saturday hunt we had some more Delta catfish, none of this Vietnam stuff. While socializing, I did something I haven't done in over 50 years: toss washers. In Ramer, some 50 years ago, we gave two points for a hanger (one hanging over the hole and not going in). At Sugar Farm, a hanger counted one point, the same as the one closest to the hole without going in. A washer in the hole counted five points; the first one to 21 was declared the winner.
The champion was old Ernest Jager, who is the sorghum-cooking champion around Moscow, Tenn. Ernest didn't participate in the hunt, but he surely did eat some grub with those dentures chopping away.
Helping Jennie, Alfred's better half, prepare the meals were Stephanie, Jennifer, and Rosie McLeod, from Biloxi, Miss. From Gulfport, Miss., was Deedy Hertz. These four ladies with their children escaped Hurricane Katrina and were holed up at the Burton's guesthouse on Sugar Farm. They have no idea how long they will be lodged there as all three had major damage to their houses and property. One of the three survived only by taking shelter in the car as her house and garage collapsed around her and her children. Neighbors had to take chain saws to cut them out of the garage.
Even after all they had been through, they still found time to smile and share fellowship with us. Their spirit lifted us all and made me realize just how blest I am. The husbands stayed behind, because they have essential jobs.
If you haven't contributed to a relief organization then please consider doing so. They need our help. And may God bless and keep them in his loving arms as they try to get their lives back to some kind of normalcy.
Wayne Capooth — outdoorsman, writer, and physician — has hunted extensively in Tennessee, Mississippi, and Arkansas for 50 years and has written four books. On the Internet, go to www.waterfowling.org.