Generations of hunters started showing up at the camp that was built from wood gathered from one of Jean Lafitte's hideouts, and they quickly began reminiscing about past hunts and predicting their success in future hunts. Several young hunters making their first dove hunt had their heads patted, scratched and knuckled as they were introduced to the crowd.
I had been dove hunting before, but I had never hunted like this. The Palo Alto dove shoot could be considered more of a "happening" than a hunt. Trailers ushered us in from the parking areas and dropped us off in front of a pit full of pig, turkeys and sausage. A big cauldron of steaming white beans sat nearby, and plastic bags full of French bread were at the ready.
After Lemann offered safety instructions, a dove report and general guidelines he opened up the chow line. It didn't take long for the groups of hunters to polish off the pork and fixings. Soon thereafter, we loaded all our gear on trailers and headed to the fields.
It wasn't long into our ride before outdoor radio personality Don Dubuc was pointing out doves that were already passing over our heads. We eventually came to a stop, and we all started staking our claims to spots along the ditches that crossed the field – everybody, that was, except for Hokie Gajan who found a comfortable spot under a shade tree to wait them out.
The other side of the field soon sounded like a military firing range as doves began pouring into the field by the hundreds. Shouts of "Over your head," "Look left," and "Is anybody going to shoot that bird?" began to come from the hot side.
A few birds eventually found their way to our side of the field, and everybody was connecting but me. I couldn't have hit one if it was peeking inside my barrel somebody must have changed my choke when I wasn't looking. I decided to put the gun down and pick up the camera to take advantage of the awesome photography opportunity.
As I made my way around the field, I discovered that several hunters were already close to filling their limits. Some were even walking out to be picked up for the ride back to the camp, where they could pick up their cleaned birds and swap a few more stories.
What I discovered during my trip to Palo Alto is that dove hunting isn't as much about hunting as it is about spending time with family and friends. It's also a rite of passage for young hunters all over Louisiana who will carry on the hunting traditions for several years to come.
Even though the birds were almost an afterthought, the hunters hunting Palo Alto Gun and Rod club this past Saturday took home enough dove breasts to fill a grill over a few times. My only comfort was that I could buy some meat on my way home.