Take advantage of great weather, fewer crowds during late dove season
PHOENIX —The second season for dove hunting begins Friday and the Arizona Game and Fish Department expects it to be one of the better seasons in years due to great seasonal rains and an abundance of crops.
“The second season is good for a number of reasons: the weather is fantastic, there are fewer crowds, and quail and rabbit seasons are open too - offering a mixed bag,” said Mike Rabe, small game management supervisor for the Arizona Game and Fish Department. “Surprisingly, a very small percentage of early season dove hunters go out in the late season. Those that choose not to go are really missing out on a great opportunity and an abundant resource.”
The season runs from Nov. 21 into the new year ending Jan. 4, 2008. However, in order to hunt in 2009, you will need a 2009 hunting license. Your migratory bird stamp is valid for the entire 2008-09 season if you have it from hunting the early season in September. Licenses can be obtained at any department office or license dealer.
The daily bag limit is 10 mourning doves. White-winged doves are not open, nor are they typically found in the state during the winter months. However, in some areas bordering rural communities or near agricultural areas, hunters may encounter Eurasian collared-doves; there no limit on these birds, but it is required to leave one feathered wing until you reach your final destination for identification (on both species). Eurasian doves are large (bigger than a white-wing) and excellent eating.
“Late season dove is always good,” adds Rabe. “There are fewer hunters, and fewer hunters means more room for those who venture out. Because the second season allows for afternoon hunting, there is more flexibility for a morning and evening hunt.”
Shooting hours are one half-hour before sunrise until sunset – statewide. The best times to hunt are right before sunrise and about 1-2 hours before sunset, making this hunt convenient and accommodating for busy schedules. Start your day a little early before going to work to get into a quick flight of birds. Conversely, work through lunch and leave early to get to a local stock tank and finish off the day with wingshooting and a sunset. Either way, late season dove offers a link to the outdoors and an Arizona tradition.
For the 2008-09 dove hunting regulations, hunting tips, the small game outlook and more, visit www.azgfd.gov/hunting under the 'small game hunting' section.
Where to hunt
So, where are these convenient hunting locations?
Use a map that identifies land ownerships and city boundaries to keep you legal. Nearly no cities allow the discharge of a firearm in city limits. Your best bets are state trust lands and BLM lands for open hunting. Desert water holes can often offer spectacular evening shooting during the late season, and a great way to combine dove and quail on a hunt. A few scouting trips can help locate great hunting spots.
Roosting sites often make for good shooting. Doves will typically pick densely vegetated areas for roosts. Mesquite bosques, tamarisk (salt cedar) thickets, and citrus groves are typical roosting sites. Doves establish flight patterns and follow them.
Watch tree lines, washes, canals, field corners, or other structural features that birds may follow. Late season doves frequently shift their flight patterns and feeding areas, so the more spots you have lined up the better your chances are for consistent good hunting.
If hunting private property, be sure to ask the landowner for permission. Also, pick up all spent shells and shell boxes. Wait to clean your birds until you reach home. This way, unsightly messes and trash will not be left on landowner's property and help insure your privilege of hunting on private lands. These considerations apply to hunting on public property as well.
Late season dove hunting tips:
- Pre-scout: Take a drive out to the areas you are considering to hunt around the same time you plan on hunting them. Check water holes for water, activity and roosting birds. Go online and check for areas that are open to hunting and use topographical software for finding water holes and drainages.
- Be on time: Evening flights do not last long. Birds get up from where they are feeding and head to roosting cover just before sunset. Getting to your spot late can mean missing the bulk of what might only be a 30-45 minute shoot. You should be in the field ready for birds no later than 4 p.m. Sunset during the winter is right around 5:15 p.m.
- Take cover: Keep you silhouette broken up with a bush, tree, or other natural object to keep hunter wary doves from climbing as high as commercial airliners or veering completely off course from your shooting position.
- Pick you shots: Some evening flights can have waves of 15, 20, 30 or more doves at once. These birds are typically climbing and moving fast. Pick your shot one bird at a time to put more birds in the bag.
- Hit and move: When you hit a bird, hold off on shooting, and move to the fall of the last bird for the retrieve. Then, find cover or crouch down, and repeat. The dark comes quickly and you want to have every bird in the bag before it’s too late.
A general hunting license (class G $32.25) AND a migratory bird stamp ($4.50) are required for all hunters 16 and older. Young hunters ages 14 and 15 do not need a migratory bird stamp, but do need a general hunting license. Youth hunters 13 and under can hunt without a license when accompanied by a licensed adult 18 or older.
Any shotgun in any gauge that you shoot well is the best choice. Choice of shot size ranges from No. 8 for close flying birds and up to No. 6 for those high-flying birds. Other than some water, hat, and sunglasses are all that is needed to get out and enjoy dove hunting.
Mix it up
The thing that makes late season dove hunting so desirable, besides the great weather and afternoon shooting hours, is the chance at a mixed bag harvest. Quail and rabbit season are open and these desert dwellers are typically encountered in the same areas as dove. Water tanks, washes, and scrub desert offer a small game hunting bonanza. Each species are excellent table fare alone or combine together in a hearty soup or gumbo.
Note: Did you know, mourning doves are the most numerous, widespread game bird in North America? They are prolific breeders with an average life span of 1-2 years, and controlled seasons maintain them as a sustainable wildlife resource. Dove hunters are a valuable conservation tool. There is a federal excise tax on ammunition that is contributed to the Pitman-Robertson Fund, which in turn is apportioned to state wildlife agencies for the management of wildlife, which is a benefit to all citizens. Additionally, hunters provide hundreds of thousands of dollars into the local economy, by purchasing ammunition, gas, food and lodging while engaging in this American tradition.