My First

* Click on pictures below to enlarge.

I shot my first dove on Sunday morning. As a matter of fact, that was the first time I ever killed anything, besides ants and cockroaches.

En route: San Gorgonio Pass Wind Farm
 I pulled the trigger... Bang! And a small mass of beak and feathers fell out of the sky. It landed with a thud, a sound so faint and soft in the earth below it. It surprised me. I quickly got up from my chair to see over the mound of dirt that separated the empty hay fields. There it was... I saw its body twitch as I approached. For a brief moment, I had a thought. Do I dare pick it up? Oh my God! I just killed a bird. Before, I didn't know how I would react when the moment came. Hunting sounds so cool. But for a woman who didn't grow up with hunting, I think it's different. You don't really know until you actually get there, when you come face to face with what you just killed, and deal with it.

By the time I picked my dove up, he was already gone. I'm glad, because I want him to go quick. I stroked his soft feathers and carefully held him in my hands. I looked back at Rick and he was grinning. "You drew blood, Dear." I replied with a nod and a smile. Quietly, I was proud inside. But what about cleaning it? I dunno. The sight of knives cutting into flesh and the sound of crackling bones never really thrilled me. You put a piece of meat right in front of me from the store and it won't bother me. By then, it doesn't even look like an animal anymore. But to take apart something that looks like the neighbor's pet bird is an entirely new experience.

But I had to suck it up, and I did it. To my surprise, it wasn't so bad. At the end of the day, I was taught to twist one of its wings off, pluck its chest feathers, feel under the rib cage and peel the breast away from the body.

Fellow hunters Max and Matt with rabbit
I also had an opportunity to help clean a cottontail rabbit. It was dark and we had to do it by moonlight. The weirdest part was pulling the fur away from the flesh. Sounds nasty, but if you treat it like food, it's not so bad anymore. And that's what it is. Food. Some may say hunting is "unnecessary," but those people forget: you can't eat chicken without killing chickens. And you know what? I worked hard for my dove. And cleaning that rabbit was a lot more work than peeling away cling wrap. Having come face to face with the process, I appreciate what animals provide. It's funny. Most people know where hamburger comes from, but it doesn't really register in their minds that Bessie had to die.

Floating in the river...
But I also learned that not all hunting is good hunting.  Rick and I watched other hunters out there, more experienced and sharp. Some were lined up against the thick brush, shooting at birds that flew parallel. Too lazy to search, some didn't even bother to go gather their kill. One man shot a dove. We watched him. "Now go get it, jerk," my companion muttered under his breath. The man took one step into the brush, changed his mind, and stepped back out again. He raised his shotgun, and continued to shoot. Rick just shook his head, "That's not hunting." It's those few rotten apples that give the rest of the hunting community a bad name. I have no idea how many birds he and his friends took down that day. It's waste. And not that I'm trying to tell hunters out there what to do (because what do I really know), but trying to pick up your spent shells isn't that hard. It's Stewardship and Courtesy 101. Speaking from the point of view of someone who loves to spend time in the outdoors, you gotta take care of it if you want to keep on enjoying it. Trash doesn't need to be out there. 

Overall, I'm thankful for my experience, although I got chewed up by mosquitoes and felt like a raisin in the sun. I also need more shooting practice. Those damn birds fly so fast. It was frustrating, but I'm not going to be hard on myself. I'm just glad that I went out there in the first place, and did all that I did. 

Beer with the guys

And thank God for the Colorado river and ice cold beer! 117 degree weather is no joke. 

On the way back, we had to stop by the famous Hadley Fruit Orchards shop. Rick hasn't been there since he was a kid. I go there every time I come back from Joshua Tree, but its' been awhile. We stretched our legs, sat down and had lunch by the window while it sprinkled outside. After being in the sun all weekend, it was strange to see the world outside become so dark and gray. Hadley's brisket sandwich was fantastic, so was my buffalo burger. We were so hungry that we scarfed down portions we wouldn't normally eat. With all the heat and the sun, eating was a challenge out there. (By the way, the freeze dried food came out fantastic. Rick was skeptical, but became very impressed. The chicken was actually chicken, texture and all.) We brought some Hadley dates back for Rick's mom to enjoy. And a bottle of Elderberry Wine, just because it sounded interesting.

Colorado River

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