Dove Hunters Unite

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Quail Unlimited is synonymous with upland bird hunting and habitat improvement. So when Quail Unlimited decided to launch the Dove Sportsman’s Society, Realtree knew this was a great chance to support a worthy cause — and get in on some classic dove hunting!

“Dove on the field! Over your head!” Shouted Randy LaMarr, a Quail Unlimited (QU) member who was hunting the next stand downfield from mine on the first day of the inaugural Quail Unlimited/Realtree Celebrity Dove Hunt.

I spun around on my stool, made a fast guess at a lead — a fast guess being the only kind a dove will usually give you time for — and was pleasantly surprised when the bird spiraled down at my shot. As I walked over to pick up the bird, I suddenly realized that the dove had been flying right toward Randy’s stand. If he hadn’t shouted his warning, I wouldn’t have had time for a shot, and the dove would have flown right over him. He’d basically given me his chance at the bird.

That kind of sportsmanship, and the social aspect of being in the field with other enthusiastic hunters, has always been as much a part of the tradition of dove hunting as the plentiful shooting.

Those traditions were alive and well at the very first QU/Realtree Celebrity Dove Hunt, a three-day event held September 6-8 near QU’s headquarters in Edgefield, South Carolina.

The Who's Who

The event brought together QU members, a wide variety of celebrities from professional athletes to film stars, outdoor writers and TV show hosts, and representatives of the Realtree staff. A central attraction for the 100 hunters who went on the hunt, of course, was the chance to take part in two days of outstanding dove shooting.

But there was more to the QU/Realtree Celebrity Dove Hunt than simply continuing the traditions of exciting shooting and gracious sportsmanship. It included fund-raising auctions, a traditional post-hunt southern barbecue (complete with some mighty tasty grilled doves and quail), and two mornings of trap, skeet, and sporting clay shooting at the nearby facilities of the venerable Pinetucky Gun Club in Augusta, Georgia. Even more important, the QU/Realtree Celebrity Dove Hunt helped to launch a new organization that will be good news for dove hunters everywhere — the Dove Sportsman’s Society.

DSS Takes Aim At The Future

Tradition is important in dove hunting, but so is assuring that those traditions continue into the future. One thing all participants in the QU/Realtree Celebrity Dove Hunt had in common — and the central reason Realtree decided to become the headline sponsor of the event — was a concern for the future of doves and dove hunting.

In fact, the QU/Realtree Celebrity Dove Shoot was a critically important event in support of a major new initiative at QU that promises to help assure healthy dove populations and good hunting in future years. That initiative comes in the form of a new division of QU: The Dove Sportsman’s Society.

The Dove Sportsman’s Society was formed by QU because despite the fact that doves are the most widely pursued game bird in America, no national hunting and conservation organization had dedicated itself to improving dove habitat and hunting opportunities for dove hunters. Similar organizations exist in support of most game birds, including ducks, turkeys and — obviously — quail, but not for doves.

Rocky Evans, QU’s Executive Vice President, and Jerry Allen, the Administrative Vice President and Director of National Operations, realized that QU was uniquely positioned to undertake a nationwide effort to improve the situation. Long known for its work in supporting habitat, conservation, and hunting opportunities for quail across the nation, QU had the experience and knowledge necessary to make the Dove Sportsman’s Society successful.

Planting For The Fruits of Labor

World-class dove fields and national organizations don’t just spring up overnight, though. For more than a year, Evans, Allen and the staff at QU headquarters worked to organize the Society, then plant and groom the dove fields and prepare for the first QU/Realtree Celebrity Dove Shoot. QU knew the hunt would be a vital step in getting the Dove Sportsman’s Society off to a successful start.

“The purpose of the event was twofold,” Evans and Allen noted. “First, we want to improve the image of the hunter and the role that he plays in wildlife conservation. Second, the event will help raise critical funds that will help us establish more chapters of the Dove Sportsman’s Society. These chapters, in turn, raise funds at the grass roots level, and then spend those funds providing more dove hunting opportunities for sportsmen and young people in their local areas. Additionally, local chapters of the Dove Sportsman’s Society work with their state wildlife agencies on public fields, and the US Forest and Wildlife Service, assisting with research projects, all designed to help provide a future for a resource that give so much back to American sportsmen.”

"We jumped at the chance...for expanding the resource and hunters’ enjoyment of that resource into the future." -- Team Realtree's Dodd Clifton

With these goals as the Society’s focus, Realtree quickly offered to be a key supporter of the Dove Sportsman’s Society by becoming the headline sponsor of the first QU/Realtree Celebrity Dove Shoot.

“We’re very pleased to be associated with this event and Quail Unlimited,” said Realtree representative Dodd Clifton. “Conservation and hunting opportunities are tremendously important to hunters and to Realtree. Having the chance to help at the very beginning of a brand-new organization like the Dove Sportsman’s Society is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We jumped at the chance to provide ground-floor support for expanding the resource and hunters’ enjoyment of that resource into the future."

How To Reach Out To The DSS

The support was welcomed by QU and the Dove Sportsman’s Society, Evans said. “We were thrilled to have Realtree join us as a title sponsor. It takes a lot of financial resources to put on this kind of event. We couldn’t have done it without them. They’re good for us, and for hunters too. Dove hunters need good camouflage and Realtree’s got the right pattern.”

Contacting The Dove Sportsman’s Society is easy on the Internet. Click right here for all of the information you'll need to join or use the contact numbers below.To get more information on joining Quail Unlimited or the Dove Sportsman’s Society, or on how to form a local chapter, call 803 637-5731.