The Ritual Of Autumn

I recall the day I came home from school and walked through the front door to be surprised by my brother holding a new shotgun, the simple but beautiful little Stevens single shot .410. I had been ragging on my father to get me a shotgun of my own for some time and now a dream was fulfilled. It was the autumn of 1959 and I was 9 years young.

Often times I have entertained the question of why my brother, Rick, and I developed such an interest in hunting at the early age that we did. Both were given Daisy air rifles at age 5 years and have never looked in the half century since. Is it a primal need that is buried deep within the genetic code of all people, suppressed by some but resurrected by others in a time of need or at a selected point in ones life? The answer is an elusive one and to be dealt with on a personal level at one time or another.

The ritual of autumn

I do know that in historical accounts of young Anglo boys being captured by Indians during the 19th century pioneer era, few if any of the boys wanted to return to the ways of their parents. The love of the chase was too alluring to be left behind. I think without doubt that allure still exists today if only given a chance.

Experiencing a special moment afield


Dove season is almost upon us and I wait in anticipation for the first evening of that day. It might seem a bit funny that I want to be on site, standing in the simmering heat of late summer, sweating profusely  with 28 gauge in hand and eyes and ears trained to the sky alert  to the whistle of incoming game. But in the whole scheme of the hunt, I really don’t care if I kill a dove or not. If they don’t come I will fire a shot anyway, perhaps at a rock or even an emaciated mesquite tree, but I will fire that one round. The rest is a ritual that has defined the life of so many boys from the rural outback of our Texas.

When the smoke is gone and the echo of the little shotgun has faded away I will pick up the empty shell and inhale the fragrance of burned powder. A hint of insanity… perhaps it is. You see, that one empty shell and the fragrance within will take me on so many hunts from the past, some great, some ok but all worthy of revisit.

Once again I will clutch that little Stevens .410 and the two precious shells given by my father and fantasize about having a full box of 25 to shoot as I wish. Once again I will be 12 years of age and standing with my brother at the stock tank near our home on the League Ranch and shooting dove so fast that we were hard pressed to retrieve all of the downed dove before they were partially devoured by our mixed breed ranch dogs. Once again I will be with my young sons, coaching them on the importance of safety and watching with pride as they too clutch that same old Stevens .410 and create memories for themselves to revisit someday. And I will think to the near future when I can stand with my grandson to coach and tell him stories of days gone by and of hunts from another time.

My youngest son, Pate, with the old Stevens .410

Yes, the ritual of autumn is almost upon us and I hope you can enjoy it with a loved one or friend and share those great memories with them as I have shared mine with you.


My oldest son, Hunter, with a dove and the old Stevens .410


With an eye and ear to the sky we wait for the whistle of incoming dove.


The magic hour


Be a part of their lives...teach our youth well.


10 thoughts on “The Ritual Of Autumn

  1. Tom Drinkwater

    I, thankfully, know exactly what you mean by this:

    When the smoke is gone and the echo of the little shotgun has faded away I will pick up the empty shell and inhale the fragrance of burned powder. A hint of insanity… perhaps it is. You see, that one empty shell and the fragrance within will take me on so many hunts from the past, some great, some ok but all worthy of revisit.

    Thanks for the memory, and the anticipation!

  2. Lynda Ballard

    What a wonderful excursion down memory lane. Your narrative with photographs brings back memories from hunting seasons of the past and propels anticipation for the hunting season this autumn.Thank you for sharing your experiences and photography.

  3. Harris Napier

    Lovely pictures. I used to hunt dove every year and loved it. I would buy 4 boxes of shells in August anticipating the season, but often I couldn’t go because of the press of business. We retired to our Schleicher Cty ranch in 1988. One day my wife Jackie and I walked out of the house and there was a featherless baby mourning dove on the ground by our house and the nest was too high off the ground to put it back. We watched it for half the day and no mother tended to it so we brought it into the house. We found out how to feed it from a nature lover and raised it in our house. She was a beauty and we named her Petunia. She loved us like her mother and I could write a book about our relationship. She had a loving personality and demonstrated it daily in many ways. After a year of free flight freedom in our house we built her a hotel and put a few ring neck doves with her. She sat on eggs but of course they were not fertile. After a couple of years we released them so they could enjoy the thrill of free flight. The first day our housecat almost got her so I put her back in her hotel cage. We left on a trip for a few days and when we got home the wind had blown the door open and we found feathers but she showed up in a couple of days, roosting in the open hotel. So we left her free. She found a boy friend but never went south with him in the winter. She never nested in the hotel but she frequented it and she would come to me and sit on my lap. After 14 years, she disapeared. Needless to say, after 23 years of living on the ranch, I still have the 32 boxes of shells that I had brought to the ranch in 1988.

  4. Janna Moore

    Great pictures. I wish the youth of today could experience all of this! Things would definitely be alot different. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Gordon Sapsed

    Great pictures with charming and sincere stories.
    I’m with Harris Napier on the gun issue, however, and have never handled a firearm in my life.
    In that respect I’m glad to be resident in England, where the chance of meeting a gun-related demise is 30 times lower than in the U.S.

  6. William Sampson

    Gordon, you poor, confused soul. The point is the gun, the hunt, the tradition and the lineage are deeply embedded in our being. You don’t reside here, you don’t have even a basis of objective comparison on the subject, yet you chitter with ignorant superiority. I too, am glad you’re a resident (subject) in England.

  7. Mycki

    Dear William …
    I was raised with guns, I support the rights of citizens to bear arms…
    BUT… I also support the rights of all people to have the freedom of speech.
    So if Gordon wants to speak his mind about his feelings about guns, then it is his right.
    As it is your right to stand on the the other side of the fence and speak your mind in support of guns, hunting, etc.

    Please don’t ridicule his right of speech because you disagree. Are you not above that???

  8. Kyle Nichols

    Yes, Gordon, if you are a criminal, you ARE 30 times more likely to meet a gun related demise. lol. Good ole Texas…”an armed society is a polite society”


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