While traveling along Old Chimney Road in Brunswick County this summer, drivers have been treated to the view of a field of bright yellow sunflowers. Within a few weeks, though, the sunflowers will be gone, replaced by doves lining the fake power line running above the field.
“Last year, I took photos of 235 doves on the cable.” said James Brown Jr. a 53-year-old longshoreman and construction business owner who lives in Supply. “The 3/4-inch cable and the three poles that hold it up were free, so all I had to do is put it all up. It is 315 feet long and I don’t have to put decoys on it. It is already a dove magnet.”
Doves love landing on power lines and many hunters erect similar lines for hanging decoys when dove season arrives. However, mourning doves have an even greater affinity for sunflower seeds, which is the reason Brown planted 4½ acres of them.
“I was never really a dove hunter,” he said. “I am more of a deer hunter and planted food plots back in the woods. When I first planted the field a few years ago, everyone enjoyed the hunting so much that I decided to keep doing it.”
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Last year, Brown planted browntop millet, corn, grain sorghum and soybeans. This year, he planted a vegetable garden on part of the field and a black oil-seed sunflowers in the rest of it. They are the same type of sunflower used for birdseed and he used a bag of birdseed sunflowers to plant part of the field. Now that the seed heads are mature, he will begin mowing strips to scatter the seeds to attract doves.
Brown admits he is not as good a shot as many of the hunters he has hosted. Last year, he shot nine doves out of his 15-bird bag limit.
“I would rather spend my time walking around the field, talking to everyone instead of shooting,” he said. “It is a social event more than anything else.”
In the past, hunters could find fields harvested prior to Labor Day weekend, the traditional opening of dove hunting season. Farmers cut more silage and planted corn earlier in the year. The demand for dove hunting in fast-developing Brunswick County now outstrips the acreage of hunting fields. People like Brown plant fields for the specific purpose of attracting doves. However, the practice is expensive.
“It costs $200 an acre to plant the field,” he said “It is like farming any crop. I used two pre-emergent herbicides before disking, fertilizing and planting the field. I also use a grass-killer and apply lime to the fields.”
Brown showed off a lime and fertilizer spreader that he bought in used condition, saving at least $1,000. The herbicide sprayer was still hitched to his tractor.
“I also put up an electric fence to keep the deer out,” he said. “I hang bags of human hair from a beauty shop on the fence and hang my dirty work shirts on deer paths going to the fields, rotating the shirts so I can launder them.”
Brown said his son, James Brown III, was the main reason he began planting the dove field. He began hunting doves when he was seven years old.
“When I was younger, daddy got me into deer hunting,” said James Brown III, a 25-year-old equipment operator who lives nearby. “Still, hunting wasn’t a whole lot of action, so we started running deer with dogs, but I still did not get to shoot very much. He bought me a 20-gauge Remington 870 pump youth model for Christmas when I was 10. Daddy would do welding for a friend who had a place with a power line doves would land on and I began hunting them.”
When Brown III was 12, he went on his first organized dove hunt. He began shooting a 12-gauge Winchester Model 1400 semi-automatic that was his grandfather’s gun.
“I loved it,” he said. “When I was 15, we planted corn that we sold to deer hunters and doves were also attracted to it. About six years ago, Daddy planted the dove field and the doves flew so well that, from 4 o’clock to 5 o’clock, you couldn’t keep a shell in the gun. I really had a ball. At the time, I was into competitive coon hunting, but started fading away from that to get into dove hunting. I shot a Benelli Super Black Eagle II that one of my friends let me try and liked it so well that I asked for one for my birthday. Daddy got me one and now I hunt with it. My daughter Makenzie is seven and she started sitting with me in the field last year.”
Soon, Makenzie will be hunting, too. However, this year, rather than just hosting friends and family on opening day, Brown is auctioning off opening day hunting rights on Sept. 3, with the money donated to Sharon United Methodist Church.
“Bidding ends on August 20,” he said. “The winning bidder can have up to 25 hunters and we will feed them breakfast and a barbecue pork butt lunch.”
The event will be a grand opening celebration for a new cabin next to the field that has cooking facilities and a dining area that he calls an “outdoor kitchen.”
“It took me three years to build,” he said. “It takes a lot of work to do it all, but I like to stay busy.”
For information, call James Brown Jr at 910-398-7629 or visit the events page at www.facebook.com/events/1636773026639695/.