Alex Hamilton has enjoyed hunting for much of his life. One of his favorite hunting partners was his uncle, Danny Millay. The two shared a love for dove hunting, but found there were few places for them to go. What initially began with the desire to create a field for doves has now become a beautiful field filled with thousands of sunflower plants, as well as a popular backdrop for family photos for people all across Owensboro and Daviess County.
“We started this for our uncle that passed away in March of 2017,” Hamilton said. “He loved dove hunting, but we never really had anywhere to go and I didn’t get a chance to make this before he died.”
The Hamilton family has 20 acres of land on Terry Road, a few miles past Panther Creek Park, where they raise horses and various animals and enjoy the land.
“We have pigs, baby calves, peacocks and chickens — just about everything,” Alex’s father Kevin said. “We just like to play.”
When Alex asked his father if they could create a dove field on a portion of the property, Kevin eventually warmed up to the idea.
“We planted about 80,000 seeds on about an acre and two-tenths of land,” Kevin said, adding that they had done their research on the legal way to create a dove field.
According to the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, “doves can be attracted both effectively and legally in Kentucky using managed fields…generally, the most productive fields have sunflowers.”
At first, Alex started planting all of the seeds by hand, but the family purchased a planter that his younger brother Austin now uses to do the planting.
Although the Hamiltons have to replant each year, Austin said, occasionally, there is a volunteer plant that comes back on its own.
Once the sunflowers die and dry out, the three Hamilton brothers use a Bush Hog to cut them down. Alex said this must be done at least 10 days before hunting season so that it is not considered baiting.
While Alex has found joy in dove hunting over the past three years, Kevin enjoys the sunflowers and the families that visit to take pictures while the plants are in bloom during late July and August.
“Sunflowers always face the sun in the mornings — when you look out there, they’re all facing the same way,” Kevin said. “He does it for the hunting — I do it for the smiles and the people coming out. We just enjoy people coming by and taking pictures. That’s why I really do it, to bring happy smiles to people’s faces.”
Kevin has also found that the sunflowers bring joy to his wife Shannon who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer just over a year ago.
“She loves them,” Kevin said. “I picked a couple the other day and put them in a vase for her, but she hasn’t enjoyed them like she wanted to.”
As to whether or not Alex thinks the tribute to his uncle was a success, he believes it was.
“He would have loved this — that’s the reason I wanted to start it,” Alex said. “Plus, it gives us all a reason to get together every year on Labor Day weekend (the start of dove season) and do what he loved. Of course, we all love it too.”
For those that want to come out to the Hamilton’s sunflower field and take pictures, Kevin said he welcomes it and recommends viewing them before dark when the sun is going down.