It's a big weekend.
It's big because it serves as an important divide between seasons. On one side of this holiday weekend are the blazing hot days of boating and fishing season. On the other side, we open our arms to hunting season.
While I don't plan to winterize my boat or hang up my fishing rod for the year until long after the last of the leaves have drifted to the ground, there's a very good chance I'll blow the dust off my favorite shotgun in the not-so-distant future.
That's because Saturday marks the start of dove season. That means the "unofficial" end of summer marks the official start of hunting season. But if you ask most hunters if they'll head out in search of the fast-moving birds, they'll stare at you with the same puzzled look as if you asked them if you plan to buy a black-and-white TV set.
While dove hunting still has some loyal followers, the ranks are falling fast. According to the folks at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, an estimated 40,900 hunters from Pennsylvania went after doves in 2005. Last year, sadly, that number fell to just 13,500.
The decline says a lot about our hunting heritage. While scores of television shows and magazines focus on big-game hunting and the trophies that come with it, wingshooting and hunting for small game have been left behind.
But I argue dove hunting offers a reprieve to many of the symptoms so many hunters complain about. While some hunters are lucky to see one or two deer in a day of hunting and get maybe a single shot in the entire season, dove hunters don't have that problem. In a hot field, it's not uncommon to put a box of shells through your gun in an afternoon.
Alot of hunters complain about a lack of hunting opportunities and crowded public lands. That's rarely the case with dove hunting. Knock on a few farmhouse doors and you're bound to get access to at least a couple fields. And who knows, treat the land well and you may be invited back for deer season.
But even if you don't get permission to hunt a farm, doves are not picky. They'll fly onto public land just as quickly as they'll find a perch on private land. In fact, some of the area's public land offers the best opportunities to find doves. The Game Commission does a fine job of managing its game lands for a variety of birds, especially doves.
The way I see it Labor Day is a day to forget the toils of the working world. It's the perfect day to get outside. It doesn't matter whether you do it from a boat, from a trail, or the edges of dove-filled field.
But if you're looking for something fun and fresh, take advantage of the official start to the year's hunting season with some warm-weather dove hunting.
Andy Snyder writes about the outdoors for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.