They say life is like a good dove shoot. And it is.
One moment you can be fully relaxed, watching an empty horizon that possesses an almost literary tranquility. If it were poetry, you could call it Reverie in a Birdless Field.
But don't get too comfortable: in an unforeseen instant, that pastoral silence can explode into something that's more akin to the Battle of Britain.
That's how this weekend's Quail Unlimited/Realtree Celebrity Dove Shoot in Edgefield, S.C., progressed - from sunlit silence to airborne pandemonium.
It was just shy of two hours since I'd parked myself against standing rows of corn and sunflowers in a gently rolling field that has been under cultivation for the event since early spring.
I was watching a grasshopper writhing in agony, trying without success to escape a growing horde of determined fire ants. The light breeze and rustle of dried cornstalks was hypnotic.
But there was no time for a nap. Gunfire rippled suddenly from the tree line a few hundred yards to my right. The birds were coming in. And they kept coming - whirling over the powerlines and into the field.
I'd like to tell you I dropped a 12-bird limit with a box of 16-gauge field loads, but I wouldn't want lightning to strike my office. So we'll talk about the dove shoot instead.
I'm a big fan of sportsmanship, and one of the highlights of my day was watching a gunner from Charlottesville, Va., let nearly a dozen birds fly past while we concentrated on recovering a cripple that fell in high grass.
Another rewarding sight was observing dog trainer Pam Kadlec of Edgefield and a Boykin Spaniel named Curly help other hunters find downed birds. "I like this as much as the hunting," she said.
In all, nearly 200 people - including two dozen celebrities from across the nation - participated in the event organized by Quail Unlimited to draw attention to its new Dove Sportsman's Society.
Quail Unlimited has a 16-year history of holding its Celebrity Quail Hunt in Albany, Ga., where guests have included Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf and Louise Mandrell. This weekend's dove shoot is likely to become an annual occurrence here.
The celebrities came from near and far - mostly far.
"We flew in from Los Angeles," said Lindy Teague, a professional model and actress who has appeared in numerous movies and on Baywatch.
Her companions included her husband, actor Marshall Teague, film star Frank Stallone and actress Leslie Easterbrook, best known for her portrayal of Callahan in Police Academy movies.
Closer to home, there was Alabama resident and comedian Andy Andrews - who stood out in the camouflaged crowd in his white linen shorts - and former New Orleans Saints quarterback Bobby Hebert, who lives in Atlanta.
The event also included its share of sporting clays and social events, including a kickoff dinner at the Sheraton Hotel, during which Augusta Mayor Bob Young welcomed everyone by pointing out the Garden City's myriad fine facilities.
"Yeah, well, don't forget one thing," responded Edgefield Mayor John Pettigrew a few minutes later. "We have the doves!"
Jerry Allen, Quail Unlimited's administrative vice president, said the society's mission is to develop chapters in every state to raise funds and preserve dove hunting as a Southern legacy.
It will be interesting to see how the dove event grows from year to year, and what it means for Edgefield and Augusta.
Reach Robert Pavey at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 119, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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