One of the things I’ve always loved about hunting is that, within reason, your success is totally depending on your own efforts, ability and, yeah, a little luck. It’s one of the few sports where the results of your days in the woods and fields are not affected by what other people are doing. In other words, nobody plays defense. There’s no shot-blocking center to knock away your lay-up, no defensive lineman rushing into sack you, no pitcher with a 95-mph fastball to strike you out.

I was reminded of that on a dove hunt last month. We sat down in front of barbecue, baked beans and killer pound cake, broke open the coolers and produced soft drinks, water and Gatorade and celebrated the demise of dozens of doves, everybody swapping stories. We discussed the double somebody had, and two birds that another hunter had killed with one shot, both tumbling onto the tin roof of an old tobacco barn.

Somebody asked, “Did anybody have a triple?” No one had. “Had anyone here ever had a triple?” I didn’t raise my hand, even though I qualified, but there was a nod in my direction from one of the other hunters, my host on a hunt a decade earlier when for about 5 minutes one afternoon, I was Michael Jordan, Peyton Manning, Chipper Jones and Arnold Palmer rolled into one.

Dove season opened at noon that Saturday. As I recall, I could only shoot until about 4 that afternoon, because the newspaper I worked for wanted me to cover a college football game at 7 that evening in a stadium an hour’s drive from the dove field. So I was a little worried that I might not have time to kill my limit, get the birds cleaned and put on ice, wash up and change from camo into khakis and a golf shirt. I was really worried about 3 o’clock when the host rolled up on his 4-wheeler with his Lab and cold drinks. I only had six birds down.

We stood and shot the breeze for a minute, and then I saw a couple of doves dart into the field, 100 yards away and heading right for me. They were about 5 feet apart, one slightly behind and to the side. I took a bead on the first bird, squeezed the trigger, and both of them fell. I was shocked. My ¬†host looked at his dog and said, “Nixon, you have seen a miracle. Two doves have died almost simultaneously of natural causes.”

I picked them up, slipped back into the brush where we were standing, and a minute or two later, three doves came sailing in along the same line. They were spaced perfectly, and I killed the lead bird 20 yards out front, the second bird almost over my head and the third as it swung past to my left, about 5 feet before it passed safely over a hedgerow. My host looked at his dog again and determined that it might be time to go play the lottery, because what he’d seen was obviously a 1-in-5 million event.

I finished my limit off a few minutes later, left the field after saying the appropriate good-byes and headed for the football game. What happened that night mattered little, because for five minutes, I was the world’s greatest dove hunter. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.¬†