In the pre-dawn darkness of Vieques, hardy and motivated men haul themselves out of bed to go to work. Or to fish with hand lines off Mosquito Pier. Or to shoot fist-sized mourning doves.
But these days, I am awakened by gunshots.
Hunting season is upon us.
Gunshots continue through the afternoon. Each one is unexpected and causes me to start. There is also the worry of being accidentally popped in the head – or some other precious body part -- through the totally open architecture of my house.
Plenty of open architecture to invite the errant bullet
I have no idea of how far buckshot carries, so I queried Yahoo Answers to find out. Somebody who calls himself “Mitch 321” posted a response.
“There is actually a simple formula to work out the maximum range of shotgun pellets by using the pellet size. The smaller the pellet the less distance it will travel since as spheres get smaller their ballistic coefficient reduces.”
Thanks, Mitch. I’ll just keep ducking low whenever I pass a window. (And you thought NRA types are, well, dopes.)
With all the firing going on, you’d think the guys out there were hunting Bengal Tigers or something.
You know – wee birds, coo-coo-coo, mate for life.
Viequenses pick the buckshot out of the dove meat and make stew or fry it. All this hullabaloo about rising before dawn, tramping around the dewy wilds with shotguns at the ready -- when all you have to do is buy all the Dinty Moore stew you can carry from the Morales supermarket.
The main threat to doves as a species is intense hunting.
Their diet consists almost entirely of seeds that they pluck from open ground, and they usually forage in pairs or small groups – ideal targets for hunters.
Dove species range across Canada, Central America and the Caribbean. In North America alone, they are the most popular game bird. More than 20 million are killed by hunters each year, exceeding the annual kill of all other migratory game birds combined.
Birds that escape the gunfire often consume fallen shotgun pellets as they forage on the ground and die from lead poisoning.
As a result, they have an average life span of a year or so.
Everybody knows that doves mate for life. But if your life might be as brief as a year, you have to make the most of it, I guess.
And doves do.
They have an enviable and fecund sex life. Their love-making yields as many as six broods in a season.
And young mourning doves mature early, getting into the sex thing the same year they’re hatched.
All of which again demonstrating that for both human and dove species, the Paradise that is Vieques offers both the agony and the ecstasy.
In my next blog, “Barely Writing”