Dove Nation Photos from Three Dove Openers Across America

Dove Nation Photos from Three Dove Openers Across America Outdoor Life

Dove Nation: Photos from Three Dove Openers Across America

For three generations, the Hardys have farmed their land in Lowndes County, Miss. Mark Hardy’s grandfather purchased about 10,000 acres with his brothers at the turn of the 20th century and founded the Magowah Gun Club around the same time.

Every year for opening day of dove season, the Hardys open their home to friends and family for a weekend of fun and hunting. They share meals and trade stories from the past year. They also host an invite-only hunt for members of Magowah, which drew about 60 people last year. Though they celebrate the dove opener, the number of birds taken isn’t their primary concern. For the Hardys and their friends, the weekend is about spending time with each other. As one hunter put it, “No one actually cares about the bag. If we did, we would do things differently.”

Mallory Amos hoists a dove high. Raymond McCrea Jones Davis Jackson carries his last bird of the day. Raymond McCrea Jones Hunters pile onto a truck. Raymond McCrea Jones Each year, Jack “Junior” Henry cooks his famous BBQ for the gathering. Raymond McCrea Jones Hampton Tucker pauses between flights, shotgun over his shoulder. Raymond McCrea Jones

Kansas

Early on the morning of September 1, a group of friends and family gathered in a public hunting area near Wamego, Kansas. This small town of less than 5,000 in the central part of the state is surrounded by fields of alfalfa, wheat, and corn, and cattle pastures. Throw in some sunflowers and you have ideal dove habitat.

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Josh Wildin brought his 6-year-old daughter, Makenzie, for the opener. “Her favorite part is my favorite part—eating the little buggers,” he said. “I don’t want her to miss out on this.”

The hunters didn’t go home empty-handed. Before the shooting started, they plotted their strategy, posting up along rows of sunflowers to ambush the birds. Doves darted across the bluebird skies, shots rang out, and birds fell. An eager black Lab helped gather the birds, and then everyone pitched in to breast them out. The season could not have started better.

Maverick pitches in during the Kansas dove opener. Matt Nager Makenzie Wildin examines a dove shot by her father, Josh. Matt Nager Success. Matt Nager Kris Boucher poses with a handful of birds. Matt Nager From left: Kansas maintains thousands of acres open for public hunting; friends pose for a group photo during a break. Matt Nager (2) A dove destined for the grill. Matt Nager Maverick pitches in during the Kansas dove opener. Matt Nager

Dove Nation Photos from Three Dove Openers Across America Outdoor Life

Texas

Dove hunting is serious business across Texas, but on the Nooner Ranch, near Hondo, the birds are accorded royal status. But given that the host, Sammy Nooner, is known as the Duke of Dove, you might have guessed that.

Few states encourage youth hunting like Texas. Any child, accompanied by an adult with an annual hunting permit, can hunt doves and small game free of charge. On opening day last year, as doves swarmed over the dried sunflower stalks, the young guns took to the field. One of them, 6-year-old Kate Friesenhahn, was armed only with a BB gun.

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The whitewings flew fast and hard, and more than a few managed to avoid the shot. But the hunters connected well enough so that by the time they cased their shotguns, everyone had plenty of dove breasts to take home.

A shooter swings on a darting dove Tosh Brown Three friends wait for the next flight. Tosh Brown A Lab helps retrieve birds. Tosh Brown Kate Friesenhahn carries her Daisy Red Ryder for the opener. Tosh Brown Nooner Ranch hands cleaning birds. Tosh Brown Bagged dove breasts. Tosh Brown Jackson Friesenhahn stands ready to cock his single-shot. Tosh Brown

This story originally ran in the September 2014 issue. Read more OL+ stories.

John B. Snow

John B. Snow is Shooting Editor of Outdoor Life, where he oversees the publication’s firearms and shooting coverage. This includes gear reviews, features on technical innovations, stories on shooting techniques and general hunting coverage with the occasional fishing story thrown into the mix.

John B. Snow is Shooting Editor of Outdoor Life, where he oversees the publication’s firearms and shooting coverage. This includes gear reviews, features on technical innovations, stories on shooting techniques and general hunting coverage with the occasional fishing story thrown into the mix.