_In the fall of 1961 LIFE magazine sent a writer and photographer to the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas to record the phenomenon of the state's hugely popular three-day special white-winged dove season. A big dove that flies in large flocks, white-wings brought hunters from all over to their home range in the brush country of south Texas for the brief hunting season. Although the special white-winged dove season does still exist in the tip of Texas, the birds have expanded widely over the last 20 years to spread throughout Texas and even into bordering states. Like geese, they have moved to the cities in many cases, flying to feed en masse just outside town, where they still offer the kind of winghsooting excitement you can sense in these pictures. White-wings now make up close to half of the overall bag of Texas dove hunters. Here's a look back at the way it was._ White-wing hunting was a family affair for a lot of the participants. Note the conspicuous lack of hunting clothes, boots, 4x4 trucks, and all the other gear we assume is essential for hunting today. On the other hand, hunter safety classes weren't mandatory in 1961, either. Can you tell?.
Hunters came from as far away as New York to shoot. They stood shoulder-to-shoulder and bumper-to-bumper.
Although there are lots of pictures in the gallery of women and men shooting, only women are shown plucking doves. In 1961, cleaning game was apparently still “woman’s work.”
Why switch to a tighter choke when you can climb closer to the doves on a stepladder instead? It makes perfect sense, sort of–except “higher up” is the last place you want to be when people are pointing shotguns in the air all around you.
It wasn’t total mayhem everyone on the firing line. Some people, like this guy, found spots of their own and looked at the hunt as a time to take it easy.
Correspondent David Nevin wrote, “[Photograper Ralph] Crane and I went flat several times as gun barrels swung in our direction.” This might be one of those times, as this woman looks dangerously close to toppling with her feet stuck in the mud as she twists to shoot. Fortunately, both men survived and brought this gallery back. Today we have it as a remarkable time capsule of the Texas hunting culture circa 1961.

Visit Life.com to see the rest of the classic photos from this gallery.