Virginia Wheelin’ Sportsmen rock
it at Ultimate Dove Hunt

There are dove hunts and there are Ultimate Dove Hunts.

Virginia Wheelin’ Sportsmen are finding the new dove hunt at Sabine Hall Plantation, a Virginia and National Historic Landmark near Warsaw, a hot-barrel blast well worth traveling 150 miles or more.

Planter Landon Carter built the Sabine Hall manor house — a classic example of Georgian architecture — in 1735. Below the house lies 500 acres of fertile bottomland along the Rappahannock River. An equal amount of forest surrounds the farm.

Skipper Andrews at hunt
Photo by Ken Perrotte

Skipper Andrews admires his first dove. Andrews used a special shotgun mount on his wheelchair to hunt.

Corn, soybean and sunflower fields attract birds and other wildlife. The property is an early September mourning dove magnet.

Robin Clark, past NWTF Virginia State Chapter president and Wheelin’ Sportsmen member, coordinates the group’s activities in The Old Dominion.

He explained that Ford Becker, who owns a farm near Sabine Hall and routinely hosts deer and turkey hunts for the group, suggested dove hunting in the area. Becker then approached Carter Wellford, an owner of Sabine Hall, and the hunt became a reality.

“Our members rarely have opportunities to enjoy quality events, such as this dove hunt,” Clark said. “Allowing each participant to bring a friend or family member, who also is allowed to hunt, makes it even more convenient for them.”

Wellford said he really didn’t know much about the Wheelin’ Sportsmen program until he spoke with Becker and Clark.

“Now, this is one hunt I really look forward to,” Wellford said. “It means a lot to the people hunting and the people helping.”

Wellford, Jeff Emory and a few other volunteers bring highly trained retrievers to the shoot. They cruise the trails along the dove fields, delivering cold drinks and using their dogs to recover birds that fall in thick cover.
The hunt, now in its third year, attracts participants ranging from Vietnam vets to pre-teens. Twelve-year-old Jack Hinson of Chesterfield, Virginia, has hunted both years with his father Paul. The dove hunt was Jack’s first hunt.

Jack has spina bifada, a congenital condition where the neural tube that eventually becomes a baby’s brain and spinal cord, and the tissues that enclose them, fails to properly develop, resulting in often severe problems with the spinal cord and backbone. Jack wears braces to help him walk.

He shoots a single-shot .410 and was all smiles after his first hunt, proudly noting he shot two birds. The family’s English setter Penny retrieved both birds.

Father and son in dove field
Photo by Ken Perrotte

Paul and Jack Hinson scan the late afternoon sky.

Shooting from a rest at a standing deer is one thing; hitting a dove flying erratically at 40 miles per hour is another. Some shooters are unable to quickly shoulder a firearm and swing on the speedy game birds.

Skipper Andrews, a quadriplegic from Dinwiddie, Virginia, was one such shooter on the first hunt two years ago. Using a special gun rest on his wheelchair, Andrews diligently tried to position his vintage Remington Model 1100 in a manner that would allow the shot to intercept the doves. He missed frequently, but persevered and later shared with satisfaction that he took his first dove on the hunt.

Clark also has limited dexterity, making it “very challenging for me to swing and shoot,” he said. But some paraplegic hunters at the event were amazing shooters.

“If birds are flying well, it’s no problem for [these participants] to limit out,” he said.

Paul Shelton of southern Stafford County hunts from a wheelchair. Situated under a power line with a single decoy, Shelton collected a 15-bird limit with just 22 shots — a remarkable accomplishment for any dove hunter.

“Whether our guys are slinging lead skyward or dropping birds, we all have a great time,” Shelton said.
The day’s fellowship ended with a celebratory meal. Last year’s shoot had a fabulous pig roast, sponsored by Ashland, Virginia, businessman William Washington and catered by Bryan Oliff, owner of Angelo’s Restaurant and Raw Bar in Montross. Items donated by Bass Pro Shops in Hanover and Woodbrook Sports of Charlottesville were raffled following the meals. The companies also provided shot shells and decoys for the hunt.

Clark, for one, is grateful for such ardent supporters.

“We’re very fortunate to have many private landowners, as well as Virginia agencies, that provide excellent opportunities on beautiful properties. Not only is it flattering these organizations and individuals allow us to host these events but also it confirms there are some very charitable folks around. We are grateful,” he said. — Ken Perrotte