As a life-long midwestern bird hunter, my expectations for hunting in California were extremely low. I moved West late last summer with a chip on my shoulder, ironically from a “flyover state”. I had written this state off to surfers and beach bums with little idea of what California has to offer outdoorsmen (and women).
Fortunately, California has been quick to proven me wrong.
September 1st, 2019 and I found myself with my shotgun loaded in the back of my electric car heading to meet a fellow member of Quail Club, and my newfound friend, Matt Rose.
Matt, is what some might expect to see when you describe an outdoorsman who lives in SoCal. His hair slightly bleached from the Californian sun, a mustache Sam Elliot would be envious of and an eager, yet positive attitude towards all things outdoors.
We met around 3AM with plans to hunt public access fields two and a half hours north of us. Our car ride was filled with conversation about where we both grew up, how life has lead us to this very moment and what we want to (personally) get out of hunting in our lifetime. This was the first September opener I was not chasing Canada geese and honestly, I was sad to see that “streak” in my hunting career come to an end.
We pulled into the field with about 30 minutes to spare before legal shooting time. A few pickups were already there and laid claim to a spot. Matt and I went into this hunt with open minds and decided we would just set up far enough away from the others hunting that we felt like we were on our own a bit and just take whatever the dove gods wanted to present us.
Not a second to spare, the moment legal shooting time opened, we were surrounded by distant shotgun blasts and fellow hunters ribbing each other over what we expected were missed shots. Matt and I stood anxiously for the first 40 minutes of the morning eager to shoulder our guns, but incredibly thankful for the opportunity to be out for a hunt.
45 minutes into our hunt, it was finally time for Matt and I to fire a few rounds and see what we were made of. After several volleys of shots and zero doves to show for it our spirits were far from broken. Rather, we were cracking jokes about us leaving the field with our pockets filled with empty shells.
Then it happened. A loan dove swooped within range and I connected. Then again. I’m not one to keep firing on a hunt when I’m with another hunter. So, after my first two birds were bagged I decided to be a lookout for Matt.
Out of nowhere a bird sailed behind us and Matt shouldered his Mossberg and let a round fly. Miss. Another round. Hit!
Matt had just connected on his first dove. As a matter of fact, up until this point I didn’t know Matt had never shot anything other than a clay pigeon with his shotgun. Elated he made contact, Matt raced out to his bird and picked it up proudly.
Though this hunt was a first for me, I couldn’t help but be extremely happy for Matt and his first dove. We may not have come home with limits, but honestly I don’t think that would have mattered. We got out of the city for a day, hunted and each bagged a few doves to cook. In my mind, that is all we ever needed.