I have attempted to hunt or catch my share of critters and fish in my day. Sept. 1 is my annual “changing of the guard” when I pull my fly rod out of my truck and trade it out for my shotgun. This date marks the annual opening day of Missouri’s dove season, one of the best times to be outdoors.
Growing up, my brother and I would “liberate” one of dad’s shotguns, fill our pockets with shells and peanut butter sandwiches, then take a long walk down the train tracks by our farm.
While we didn’t always do what we were told back then, my dad did make sure we were properly educated on what was expected when you had the privilege of hunting.
One lesson was to make sure we always asked for permission before hunting on a neighbor’s land. Could be he suspected we were bagging our birds along the train tracks. I hope enough time has passed that I don’t get a visit from my local conservation agent or a railroad detective — there are a lot of issues with me telling this story.
The other lesson was to never, ever, fire at birds sitting on the power lines. Dad explained that not only was this poor sportsmanship, but that those power lines represented the hard work of past generations who built those lines so that we could have things like running water, air conditioning and a deep freeze.
Dad also reminded us that some of our neighbors relied on the reliable flow of electricity just to stay alive. They might require a medical device that was critical for their health.
Sept. 1 is a day some electric co-op employees dread. They would like to be out in the fields hunting doves. But instead, they have to be on call ready to make repairs when some so-called hunter causes damage. That’s especially true for those co-ops with fiber internet service.
Just one small pellet from a shotgun can cause thousands of dollars damage to fiber-optic lines. Just like with the power lines, damaged fiber can be hard to locate. And these days a fiber outage can be as big a problem as an outage on the electric side.
Many of you have youth who are about to experience their first dove hunt. Do me and your local co-op a favor: Sit your kids down and teach them the proper, safe way to hunt. It could save their lives, or the lives of someone dependent on electricity and a good internet connection.
I know most hunters won’t tell you where their favorite dove field is located for obvious reasons. But I will share this little tip: There’s no better place to find doves than in a watermelon patch that’s been disced after the good melons have been hauled away. I learned that the first time I went down to the Bootheel for a Delta Center dove hunt with my good friends and co-op directors Jake Fisher and Justin Rone.
Happy hunting. If you have a good dove recipe to share, send it my way. I’m feeling optimistic.
Caleb is the executive vice president and CEO of the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives and a member of Boone Electric Cooperative.