RORY FRASER // Fraser Documentary & Archival Projects

2015 // 20 min. // Color SD Video // Stereo

This was shot in the Mississippi delta during a dove hunt in 2007. I was participating in the hunt, as well as filming. As such, each shot is taken from our shooting post, which was a stationary point on the edge of a cut wheat field. The field had been planted and then cut specifically for the hunt on September 1st, the opening day of dove season.

In any type of bird hunt, birds are either "walked up" - flushed by dogs and hunters walking around, or "driven" - moved into the shooting field by natural inclination, or by human force (human “beaters” work the woods for pheasant in Great Britain). In the case of doves, during their fall migration from north to south, they move with wind currents, and stop in cut fields periodically to feed. This is why dove hunting is a tradition associated with harvest season, especially in the American south.

In this piece, the movement of doves with the wind is very apparent, as the passages with strong bouts of wind presage the passages of shooting in the field. The morning started quietly, then the wind picked up for a few hours when the doves came in. Then the wind died, and with it any sign of doves.

Visually, this piece shows general goings on in a dove field. People wandering around killing time, locals showing up in their SUVs for the hunt, and finally some dove shooting. The hay bales in the fields are used as blinds, where the hunter sits in the shadow of the bale. Similarly, other hunters line the field in the shadows created by trees. The hunt works with hunters calling out to other hunters across the field when they see doves. Often, when doves evade shots taken at them, they bounce back across the field, where they are either taken by other hunters, or more often, where they escape.

Of the 500 million doves that migrate every year, around 30 million are killed by hunting in North, Central, and South America. In most states in the U.S., a typical daily limit is 15 birds. In many countries in Central and South America there are no limits, which is why there is a major dove hunting tourism industry in those places.