Then starts the great decline. The crowds get thinner every week regardless of whether there are birds. The only exception is that if you have a really hot shoot and go home and call everyone who wasn't there and rub it in, the next weekend the field will be packed with your boys and the birds will have packed up and headed south. You shoulda been here last week...
This year the decline has held true to form. Fewer and fewer hunters each week while bird numbers have been pretty steady. You'd think this would be good for the few of us remaining, but as anyone who's hunted dove knows the birds get substantially smarter once the first shot is fired. They have an uncanny ability to divert flight paths through the parts of the field where the guns aren't. Which means you generally need enough guys around a field to plug the gaps and keep the birds moving, and if you're lucky there are a few guys who fidget and walk around and cause the birds to flare and fly toward you, the stealth hunter sitting motionless in the shadows, agent of death from below.
Last weekend Bob - one of the hard-cores - and I showed up. Way down on the other end of the field was a guy I knew but had never seen in the dove field and he brought along a friend visiting from Israel. And that was it. Just the four of us. And some birds.
So Bob and I rimmed a corner within earshot of each other, sipped a few beers and drew on the occasional kamikaze. Mostly we watched the birds drift right through the big open spaces in middle. When we left, the Israeli was still at the far end of the field, alone, and might still be there for all I know.