Some friends and I spent a pleasant day last week dove hunting in the rolling hills east of the Blue Ridge.
We managed, after a fashion, to bag a dozen doves from a series of flocks that began descending on us shortly after 4 p.m. It was wild for a couple of hours and we ended the day refreshed and happy.
Inevitably there was a post-hunt session on the ride home; we discussed ways we could have done better.
And as inevitably, the conclusion was that we needed to spend money.
"Dove decoys, that's what we need," someone said. And by the time we hit Massie's Corner it was decided we'd all pitch in any buy several dozen fake birds.
When I got home I added dove decoys to the list of things-needed-to-hunt successfully that I'd started in September.
On a lark, I pulled out the calculator and figured out what it all would cost. The bottom line: $38,721.60.
That does not include a trip to England to be fitted for matched pairs of London-grade double-barreled shotguns nor does it cover expense for trips to Cuba to hunt ducks or East Africa for lions.
It covers absolute requisites to happily hunt Maryland and Virginia for waterfowl, upland game and deer.
No. 1 on the list is a four-wheel drive. No self-respecting sportsman would be caught dead in the stripped Aspen I am now piloting to predawn meets in the hinterland.
"What kind of vehicle are you in," my partners ask when we set up these voyages.
"It's a car," I answer disconsolately. "A dull brown car."
They never have trouble finding me. My no-nonsense Dodge stands out like international blaze orange among the sleek Broncos and CJ5s.
That's $10,000. Then there's a major outlay of $25,000 for a cabin in the woods. What decent shooter lists Northwest Washington as his home address and has to admit he spent the night before the hunt in a Quality Court with color TV?
Then there's membership in a goose club on the Eastern Shore. That's going to run $500 a year, plus my share in the hundreds of decoys we'll need to ring the blinds we'll have to buy lumber to build. Make that $750.
And duck decoys. Even if you hunt Public lands, you need duck decoys to lure the fast-flying mallards and black ducks in for a respectable miss. That's $250.
I'm never going to spend another cold day in a waterfowl blind without electic socks and a hand-warmer. Chalk up another $45 . . .
And my old nylon ski parka has to go. I'll need two new ones, both in goose down; one orange for deer season and one camouflage for birds. Mark that $200.
Then there's a canoe to float the mountain rivers for ducks and squirrels. Say $400. And a decent 20-gauge shotgun so I won't be accused of 12-gauge brutality against small game. Another $250.
And a boat. That's an absolute must for retrieving downed birds from water blinds and for setting up sea duck hunts in the Chesapeake. How about $500?
Two dogs: A pointer for birds and a retriever for waterfowl. Add another $500.
As a bona fide slayer of multitudes I'll need a deep freeze to store all my game. Let's say $500 for that. And a respectable rifle for deer season: $200.And, oh yes, dove decoys: $25.
Add licenses for Maryland ($30.50, small game only, plus $5 for U.S. duck stamp and $1.10 state) and Virginia ($40). plus an assortment of hot - and cold weather caps in orange and camouflage ($25), and what do you have?
The best-equipped fool that ever left his safety on when the first Canada geese of the year flared into the blind.