"Just think," said a fellow outdoorsman the other day, "only two more months and we'll be hunting doves."
Last weekend's rainy chill put many of us in mind of the approaching shooting season, and the first thought, as usual, was of the first open season of the year for the sleek and ubiquitious mourning dove.
Mention of doves even stirred old memories in Gilbert Rudio of Oxon Hill, who hasn't hunted at all in the 10 years since he left the Philippines to come to America.
Rudio grew up in the rural town of Baler Quezon, 200 miles from Manila and close to the Pacific shore. when he was young there were no refrigerators or ice house in Baler Quezon.
To get fresh meat folks had to either hunt it or raise it.
They did both, and if the raising was hard work, the hunting was unreal. Firearms were impossible to come by unless one was lucky enough to find a cast-off world War II relic.Even then, ammunition was scarce.
So the Filipinos used their wits. Rubio tells a fantastic tale of dove hunting.
"We hunted rom blinds that we built from small trees and shrubs. We placed the blind at the top of a hill, overlooking a valley."
The blind was in two sections each a curtain of foliage about six feet across. And each had a tiny window for the hunter to look down in the valley. Between the two blinds the hunters left a bigger window, an empty space about three feet across.
"We built the blind during the day. Then about 2 or 3 in the afternoon the doves would start to fly back up the hill from their feeding grounds in the valley," Rubio said.
As the birds came up, many took the easiest path over the hilltop. That was through Rubio's three-foot "window." The birds didn't know Rubio and his partners would be waiting behind the curtains armed with a six-foot bamboo poles. On the end of each pole they had fashioned a broad, plate-like paddle of woven bambool.
"We knocked them down, right out of the sky." Rubio said, "and when we had enough we stopped. We couldn't keep more than we could eat. Anyway, that meant more birds for the next day."
He said on a good day he would bag 15 doves, enough for a feast.
Another favored quarry was wild boar, furiously aggressive beasts that can slash a hunter to ribbons if his shot falls off the mark.
Anyone who hunted boar with a rifle made sure he knew where the nearest tree was, Rubio said. Even then he had to pick out a stout one, because an angry boar could knock a thin one down by butting it, then gore the hunter to shreds.
But Rubio didn't have a rifle. He and his companions searched instead for unexploded World War II bombs and land mines that lay in the woods, then extracted the black powder from them.
"We filled a saucer with poweder and covered it with another caucer. You had to be very careful. To seal it we wrapped cellphane around the crack.
"Then we cut a coconut in half and sandwiched the coconut meat around the saucers. When a boar found it he would rip it apart with his teeth. When he hit the saucer it exploded and blew his head off."
The technique today is illegal in the Philippines where officials fear civilian casualties from these home-made mines. But it worked in Rubio's day.
Then there was fishing. There were no fancy rods and reels available, but that didn't stop Rubio.
"For a picnic, we would pack some rice and something to drink. Then we would go to the beach and catch our fish."
The Filipinos used cane poles they cut from the forest. They attached a steel ring to the rod tip for a rudimentary guide and strung heavy line through it.
They cast cut bait over the reefs when the tide was low, holding the line and the butt of the cane pole in the palm of one hand.
When a fish struck, and often it was a big fish, the only control the angler had was by applying pressure to the line with the palm of the hand. Line spun off a spool that lay at his feet on the beach.
It was primitive, but it worked. Pubio said grouper up to 40 pounds often were landed.
Here in Ameriac we have electric socks, hand warmers, prefabricated duck and goose blinds, fancy and powerful guns, speed boats, elegant fishing rods of fiberglass and graphite and machined, variable-drag reels so big they can overpower a 1,000-pound tuna.
After awhile we get to think these things are prerequisites for successful hunting and fishing. Not so.
It's incredible what a little hunger and some ingenuity can do.