The night before the season opened Patti and I got little sleep. Clarissa banged on our bedroom door all night long while Mike slept like an angel.
First she told us there were crickets in our house and she couldn't sleep. We patiently told her all houses in the Imperial Valley had crickets. A few hours later we were awakened again because something was buzzing outside. Again we explained that locust buzz in September.
"There's a big animal on the roof," she screamed next, barging into our bedroom without knocking.
"That's the raccoons, Clarissa," we explained.
"They won't be on the roof long," we told her. "They're going to climb the date tree to eat dates, so don't wake us again when you hear the date seeds hitting the roof, OK?"
I've always been amused how three coyotes can sound like a pack of 40. At 3 a.m. Clarissa woke the whole household with her screaming. It even got Spot going and he started howling and barking along with the coyotes. I wasn't amused this time.
Patti and I staggered into the kitchen way too early in the morning with red, puffy eyes and started fixing coffee and breakfast for our guests. Our chance for any more sleep was long past.
Clarissa's makeup wasn't up to snuff when she finally made an appearance for coffee and croissants. I'm not sure if it was the lipstick that didn't follow her lips but wandered almost to one ear, or because each eyelid had a different color of eye liner applied. I could also smell a hint of alcohol on her breath but at least she had calmed down. She was fully outfitted in camouflage and resembled a walking oak tree.
While finishing our coffee and loading the car with chairs, ammo, guns, vests, bug repellent, sun block and ice chests full of drinks, Mike explained Clarissa had never hunted before and had recently completed her hunter safety course. He had just bought her a new semi-automatic shotgun, which she had never shot. Patti and I groaned under our breath.
Our plan was to hunt the edge of some feedlot pens and shoot the doves as they flew over an adjacent haystack yard and into the feedlot. I had built a blind from hay bales for Patti and Clarissa to use while Mike and I planned to stand along the perimeter fence of the feedlot. In front of the girls' blind, a dozen dove decoys were clipped on a barbed-wire fence to lure more doves to their blind.
As the eastern sky began to lighten and shooting time approached, Mike and I left the girls in their comfortable blind and took up our positions. By legal shooting time dozens of doves zipped past our location only a few feet off the ground, darting erratically in and around ground level obstacles like they do at first light and making fools of anyone trying to successfully draw a bead on them.
Mike and I wisely held our fire, waiting for more light and allowing the birds to gain some altitude so we could hit them. Not so Clarissa and Patti. First we'd hear the "pop" from Patti's pump shotgun followed by "pop, pop, pop" from Clarissa's gun. Silence would follow for a brief moment while they reloaded and then pop … pop, pop, pop. It wasn't long before we saw both ferrying ammo from our car to the blind.
By the time the sun peeped over the Glamis Dunes, Mike and I had limits and wandered over to see how the gals were doing. That's when I learned never to bring a full case of ammo for a morning's dove hunt.
They were standing ankle deep in empty shotshell hulls and acrid blue smoke curled up out of their blind and lay low around them like ground fog. For a case of shells, two dead dove lay atop the hay bales and all my dove decoys hung upside down from the barbed wire fence. Two were missing tails and one didn't have a head.
Outdoor Tales writer Al Kalin can be reached on the Internet at firstname.lastname@example.org