A Closer Look Part II

I come from a long line of hunters on my Dad’s side of the family.

From left to right:My father John Richard Downes, Jr. as a boy; his grandfather Richard “Dick” Downes, Jr.; my grandmother Mary Buie Downes and my grandfather John Richard Downes,Sr. (Johnnie)

If hunting was genetic, I would know all the game seasons, keep my licenses current, my guns cleaned, and have multiple mounted animal heads on my walls. But, as far as I know there is no hunting gene. I don’t have any hunting licenses and never did. I have no hunting guns and I only have a vague idea of when deer season is. My grandfather Johnnie loved to go off on hunting trips in various parts of Texas depending on what he was hunting. Sometimes my grandma Mary would go and sometimes my brother would go. When I was about 11, I went on one trip down to Pearsall, Texas. My grandparents gave me a chance to try shooting a shotgun. I was not prepared for the kick and was reduced to tears by the jolt and surprise of it. That was my first and my last hunting trip. I would rather observe and wonder at animals of all sorts and don’t have it in me to kill them.

So, I never became a hunter, and contrary to rumor, I was not named Betty after my grandfather Johnnie’s hunting dog “Betty.”

I did eat some of the game they brought home. We almost always had something wild in the freezer. My favorite was quail. I didn’t like the venison and I didn’t like duck or dove.

I think about hunting doves a lot these days because of the White winged doves that tend to dominate our backyard feeders.

These birds are easy to identify by their large size and the distinctive white edges to the wings. If you look just a bit closer you will see how handsome they can be with beautiful blue skin around the eyes and bright pink legs and feet.

White Winged Dove
(copyright 2019 Betty McCreary)

White winged doves have moved from south Texas to much farther north. When I was a kid we never saw them here in Austin. Now they are everywhere and seem to have pushed away most of the smaller Mourning and Inca doves. According to a year 2000 Spring Breeding Survey there were 264,000 White winged doves here in Travis County! That was almost 20 years ago and I imagine there are more now, many of them in my backyard at times. It is believed that changing south Texas agriculture, loss of habitat, and hunting pressure have all contributed to the birds moving north.*

*White winged Dove information from Texas Parks and Wildlife Website Page: “South Texas Wildlife Management” (White-winged Doves) https://tpwd.texas.gov/landwater/land/habitats/southtx_plain/upland_birds/white_winged_dove.phtml

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Born and raised in Central Texas. Spending time outside brings me joy and I love to share my observations. I also belong to two writing groups and enjoy researching my ancestors. I find people interesting, but Nature keeps me sane.

12 thoughts on “A Closer Look Part II”

  1. Great post – applause for giving the white-wing doves some good press!
    Since sometime in the early ’90s I have been “courting” the White-wing doves … feeding them, admiring them, putting bells on my cats … Their numbers and the way they congregate are part of the attraction. We have mockingbirds and sparrows and finches and wrens as well … but they don’t “take stage and perform” like those doves! (Magically, our yard does not host grackles … )


    1. I actually have a sort of love/hate relationship with them, but love them enough to tolerate them. I only get a grackle once in a while…don’t know how i would feel if they took over the yard. We still do have cardinals, wrens, bluejays, and a few other species.


  2. Great post. Love those old photos. I didn’t get the hunting gene either although I know my uncles hunted and once a year we got a taste of venison. We don’t have white-winged doves here – their detailing really is pretty.


  3. Thanks V. J.
    I many other similar photos of people in this branch of the family posing with all sorts of dead critters including strings of fish and some giant fish.
    The young man in the photo is my dad and he did not hunt at all as an adult.


  4. My dad was, at one point in his life, a gunsmith. We kids grew up with gun and I was nearly hrown out of a small boat when shooting a 12 guage shotgun. Your post reminded me of this. We only used gun for target practice and I got to be a pretty good shot. We “threw” blue rock with a spring loaded contraption at the rifle range to increase our skill at shooting moving objects in the sky but we never hunted birds or anything. From the boat in the river, we shot at pieces of stale bread on the water, and always against/towards a cliff. With dad it was always safety first. Thanks for stimulating memories for me, and I greatly enjoyed your post. ~joan


    1. Thanks Joan! I think I have a pretty good aim and would have probably enjoyed target shooting. My grandfather actually was a competitive trap or skeet shooter (not sure of terms) and won many trophies for his skill.


  5. Betty your talent at photography equals your writing! I have always loved Mourning Doves, and did a walk with the Audubon Society a month ago where they talked about how the white winged doves are more urban and are running the Mourning ones out. As we were walking at Wild Basin, though, we heard a beautiful Mourning Dove cooing – guess it was “out of the city” enough for them. Evidently they migrated here from the plains. Interesting stuff!


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