Dove hunting is sometimes a lot like baseball—hours of relative boredom under a blazing sun and then several minutes of hysteria as tennis ball-sized gray rockets dive-bomb the field. They twist and turn, streaking across the harvested grain and hunters' heads like fighters from the Imperial Fleet swarming Luke Skywalker and his fellow Jedi pilots in "Star Wars." Some doves do not survive the gauntlet of gunfire, but many, or most, streak safely back over the trees, leaving many dollars' worth of burned gunpowder in their wake.
That was the scene in the Sequatchie Valley Monday for the second annual Sequatchie County Youth Hunters Association dove hunt. It's also called the Carl Adams and Don Edgmon Memorial Dove Hunt.
Don Edgmon passed away in February. He was retired after serving as a wildlife officer (game warden) in Sequatchie County for 36 years. Cut from the same cloth as his father, Shawn Edgmon now patrols the valley for TWRA and the sportsmen, walking exactly in his father's footsteps.
Asked about the dove hunt named in his father's honor, Shawn gets emotional—very emotional. The wounds are too fresh to say much about his father, but the tears tell the story well.
Carl Adams was a volunteer hunter education instructor for about 30 years until he passed away a couple of years ago, Shawn said.
"He helped my dad throughout the years," he said. "He actually taught me how to dove hunt."
Now, it is Shawn's mission in life to carry on that tradition, not just with his own children but with dozens, or hundreds, of other children.
"A lot of kids don't have these kinds of opportunities," he said. "We had about 60 kids here today. I've probably heard from 20 or 30 of them who shot their first bird. And they're all excited as they can be, wanting to know when we can do it again."
Shawn is quick to make it clear it is not a one-man show. His fellow TWRA wildlife officers aid in the mission; Jim Thompson with the Dunaway Hunting and Fishing Club donated a deer hunt; and the Tennessee Valley chapter of Safari Club International chips in $2,500 for shirts, caps, food and a shotgun to give away to one lucky winner. With other individual donors and live entertainment, it is far more than a simple dove hunt. It is a huge, daylong party with landowner George Hamilton Jr. as the host.
"It's all for the cause," Hamilton said. "Kids need to learn about the outdoors. It's part of our heritage."
Mason Swan wasn't much worried about heritage as butterflies chose his hand for a landing pad. There are a lot of different things to learn while waiting on birds to fly in a dove field, including patience. But the first time Mason's 20-gauge Escort shotgun barked and a dove hit the ground, the hours of waiting were quickly forgotten.
Although spent shells surrounded Mason's feet, it wasn't the barnburner dove hunt organizers had hoped for. That has been the case for many dove hunters this year, as the extreme rainfall has hurt farmers' crops.
However, there is always next year, and an annual dove hunt isn't the only SCYHA function. Shawn and his group host trapping seminars, deer hunts, rabbit hunts, skeet shooting and other events, ensuring that virtually every area youngster who wants the chance to get outdoors, gun in hand, can do it—and do it safely.
"As an organization, we're trying to show kids not just how to do it, but how to trap or hunt ethically and safely—just generally how to do it right," Shawn said.
Don Edgmon taught his son well.
Richard Simms is a contributing writer, focusing on outdoor sports.
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