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For millions of Americans, fall means one thing: hunting season. Sure, there are school openings and pumpkins to be carved and, for much of the nation, “leaf-peeping” trips and screens to be swapped out for storm windows and countless other signs, big and small, of the cooling months. But in states from Maine to Texas, Oregon to Florida, the end of summer and the beginning of autumn heralds that time of year when family and friends get together for some quality shooting.
More than fifty years ago, in October 1961, one hunt in particular caught the attention of LIFE magazine, and the weekly sent a photographer and correspondent to Texas’ lower Rio Grande Valley to document Texans and others from as far away as New York gunning for the white-winged dove. The resulting feature—titled, with a wry nod to Shelley, “Hail to Thee, Blithe Spirit: BLAM!” painted a picture of a pastime that seemed one part death wish and three parts rollicking, 20-gauge fun.
We’ll let LIFE set the scene:
Here, LIFE.com offers a gallery of Crane’s photos—including many that never ran in LIFE—from that 1961 dove hunt in Texas.