By Ron Day, law enforcement branch chief
Arizona Game and Fish Department
Each year, time seems to stand still between deadline day and
the day I finally find out what my fortunes were in the fall
hunt drawing. Will it be my late white-tailed deer permit, or
an archery bull hunt? An antelope hunt, or (heaven forbid!)
my sheep tag? Those of us with this summertime disease suffer
through the heat knowing that we have to endure these 110 degree
days in order to find out for what we were drawn. Unfortunately,
with permit numbers far below demand, many of us get that recorded
message that starts, “You were not drawn for…”. Luckily, I have
heard this recording often enough to know that it is not the
end of my fall hunting season. It only means I will be making
Many hunting opportunities are in no way, shape, or form associated
with the fall drawing process. Two fall big-game hunts available
to everyone are the archery deer hunt and the fall bear hunt.
To participate in these hunts, simply purchase a hunting license
and an over-the-counter non-permit hunt tag, and get into the
field. The seasons associated with these hunts vary, and are
found in the department’s annual fall
hunt regulations. Both hunts offer an excellent opportunity
to enjoy the outdoors and participate in a great hunt.
If you don’t want to chase a big game animal this year, the
small game and waterfowl possibilities are endless. Cottontail
rabbits can be hunted year-round. Starting with the Sept. 1
dove opener and running through the end of quail season in mid-February,
you are limited only by your desire to go hunting. When you
list the number of different species of small game, you realize
what a variety of opportunities exist. How about trying to spend
a day this fall hunting each? Most of the seasons are structured
to let you combine hunts. A Kaibab squirrel, blue grouse and
chukar partridge trip is a great way to escape to the North
Kaibab. Although this would be one of the tougher trips, you
get the idea.
Do you duck hunt? If you do, enough said: you’re already looking
forward to the fall and have probably started dusting off and
cleaning up your decoys. If you don’t, it’s probably because
you haven’t experienced one of those magic duck days.
Did I mention that I like to predator call? Words can’t describe
the look on a coyote’s face when it is twenty yards from you
and still coming strong. If you have not called one in yet and
this is your first, don’t bother to move. Just enjoy the moment.
Your chances of actually bagging this coyote are just about
nil. But you are hooked, and I guarantee there will be others.
Now that I’ve heard those dreaded words “You were not drawn
for…” it’s time to firm up my fall hunting plans. As I do, I
will remember those two key words: “endless possibilities.”
By Brian Wakeling, big game program supervisor, and Mark Zornes,
small game biologist, Arizona Game and Fish Department
Interested in hunting archery deer or dove this fall? Lucky enough
to get drawn for pronghorn? Here is our regional forecast for these
Statewide, deer fawn recruitment increased for both white-tailed
deer and mule deer this past year. What that means to hunters is
that more yearling bucks (spikes and forkhorns) will be available
this year than in the recent past. Do not expect droves of deer,
but you should note a moderate improvement in numbers, and possibly
Keep in mind that most early hunts have hot weather. Take lots of
ice and be prepared to deal with meat and capes in warm weather.
Remember that successful archery deer hunters, including Kaibab
archery hunters, must contact the Arizona Game and Fish Department
in person or by telephone at 866-903-3337 within 10 days of taking
Region I and II
Hunt at higher elevations. Water is not likely to be a problem this
year, so water hole sitting may be less successful. Spot and stalk
hunting may prove a good alternative approach. The Kaibab is always
popular, but overcrowding complaints are common.
December archery deer hunts should be good spot and stalk hunting.
If the summer monsoon produces average moisture, water sources may
not be a strong attractant, making deer harder to find.
Southwestern deserts can be difficult to hunt if the monsoon is
average. Good quality bucks are taken annually in this area of relatively
low deer density.
Compared with long term averages, rainfall was less plentiful in
this region than in the other regions last winter and populations
have responded less favorably. However, this is the main white-tailed
deer region, so patient spot and stalk hunters can be successful.
Hunt success has been high in Units 22 and 23 during the last two
years. Last year's Willow Fire improved visibility and may prove
helpful to white-tailed deer hunters. The Cave Creek Complex fire
impacted a large area this summer, but few animals will abandon
this area. Be aware that depending on when you go, parts of the
area impacted by fire may be closed; it’s a good idea to contact
National Forest ahead of time at 602-225-5200. If the monsoon
is favorable, watch for fresh green patches, as they will attract
Pronghorn surveys have been favorable in the northern regions, with
better fawn recruitment when compared with recent years. Pronghorn
hunting seasons usually have warm weather, so hunters should be
prepared to care for meat and capes. Pronghorn lose fur easily,
especially in warm weather, so packing your harvest out will require
Many pronghorn experts say that the pronghorn hunt occurs primarily
before the season. Pre-season scouting can play an important role
in locating and identifying the animal you plan to harvest. Hunts
are often over in a very short time.
Regardless of which region your permit is in, pronghorn may not
show much affinity to water sources if the monsoon produces average
moisture. Hunt in areas with a diversity of broad-leaved herbaceous
plants, as this is their primary food. Watch for green areas. Although
Unit 21 recently suffered from the Cave Creek Complex fire, wildlife
rarely abandon their areas entirely. They may respond well to green
up and herbaceous improvements after the fire.
Overall, dove hunters should be pleased with the 2005 early dove
season. Nesting mourning and white-winged dove numbers appear to
be up. Doves are likely to be more widespread than during the past
few years, due to the abnormally wet winter and widespread natural
food resources. For the best dove hunting, hunters should focus
their efforts in the southern half of the state. Some opportunity
for dove hunting will also occur in the northern half of Arizona,
but won’t be consistent due to weather conditions and timing of
Dove hunting will be best in agricultural areas planted to small
grains, like wheat or safflower. Abnormally wet conditions during
the 2004-2005 winter caused some farmers to shift from wheat to
less desirable cotton due to planting conditions. Increasing development
in the Yuma Valley and Yuma Mesa is going to negatively impact a
hunter’s ability to find a place to hunt. Areas like Wellton and
the Mohawk Valley will yield good hunting in 2005. Hunting should
also be good this year around Salome and Aguila.
Dove hunting should be good in traditional spots like Milligan Road
near Picacho and around the Red Rock feedlots. More opportunity
will exist to hunt desert birds this year. Dove numbers are up near
Tucson, but hunters should be aware of limitations regarding developments,
city limits, and private property.
Many areas in the east and north valleys are no longer accessible
to dove hunting due to housing developments and annexation. The
best opportunities exist in the agricultural areas near Stanfield,
Maricopa and Casa Grande. The west valley near Buckeye down to Gila
Bend and along the Gila River should also provide good opportunity.
There are numerous feedlots in these areas, some of which permit
dove hunting. Desert water holes will be good spots for late morning
hunts. Hunters should check maps for such places that are located
on state or other public lands.
Overall, development and annexation near urban centers is reducing
dove hunting opportunities. Hunters should plan on pre-season
to locate dove flights and hunting access. Remember to get permission
from landowners to hunt private lands. Spent shell casings are
and should be picked up. Retrieving them shows respect for the
land and landowner, and improves the image of hunters. Failure
so has permanently closed gates to dove hunters in many locations.
Keep in mind that hunters are not permitted to discharge a firearm
within one quarter mile of a home or building without the owner’s
permission, and that shooting from or across roads is a violation
of the law.
hunting in Arizona
By Mike Rabe, migratory birds program supervisor, Arizona Game and
Arizona is one
of the best places to hunt doves anywhere. We have two seasons here:
an early season from Sept. 1–15, and a later season in late fall
and early winter that varies a little in the opening and closing
dates. There are also two zones with slightly different regulations:
a north zone and a south zone. This year the late season opens Nov.
18 and closes Jan. 1 in both zones. In the early season, shooting
is restricted to half an hour before sunrise to noon in the southern
zone of the state. There is no half-day restriction in the north
zone. Hunting takes place all day (half an hour before sunrise to
sunset) in the late season statewide. Bag limits are 10 dove per
day. Up to six of those can be white-winged doves. Complete information
about Arizona’s rules for dove hunting are found in the 2005-2006
dove and band-tailed pigeon regulations.
There are five species of doves in Arizona. Hunters have to be able
to identify them all. The five species are mourning doves, white-winged
doves, ground doves, Inca doves, and Eurasian collared doves. Turtle
doves are also occasionally found in Arizona when they escape captivity.
Mourning doves are by far the most common doves, dominating the
skies in most areas. White-wings can be plentiful in the early season
in desert regions.
All doves are classified as migratory birds. White-winged doves
migrate into Arizona from Mexico in May and typically move south
out of Arizona in early September, so white-wings are only available
to the hunter for the early season hunt (Sept. 1–15). Many mourning
doves also migrate through Arizona; some winter in Mexico and migrate
through Arizona to breed in northern states. Some migrate from Mexico
to breed in Arizona, and some live in Arizona year-round. White-wings
are larger than mourning doves, with a distinct white wing-bar.
Inca doves and ground doves are much smaller than either mourning
or white-wings and are protected. In recent years, Arizonans have
encountered increasing numbers of Eurasian collared doves. These
exotics, introduced from Asia, are increasing in numbers. They are
about the size of a white-winged dove, steely gray in color, with
a black collar around the top of the neck. Currently, you can hunt
Eurasian collared doves during the dove season with no bag limit.
Mourning doves are habitat generalists. They nest just about anywhere,
including urban, agricultural, and desert areas. They migrate and
breed as far north as central Canada. Mourning doves are rather
lackadaisical about nest construction, usually making a loose nest
of sticks where the female lays two eggs. Males and females share
incubation duties. In Arizona, mourning doves may begin nesting
as early as February and continue into September. Since it takes
a little over a month to produce a pair of young doves (three to
seven days for courtship and nest building, 15 days to incubate
the eggs, and 10–15 days to brood the hatched young), a pair of
doves can produce five broods in a good year (allowing for a little
rest between broods).
White-winged doves are creatures of the southwest deserts. White-winged
doves are not as prolific as mourning doves and not nearly as widespread.
In a good year, they can pull off two broods of two doves each,
but one brood of two is more common. Most white-winged doves migrate
into Arizona to breed only. After breeding, they wing their way
south, back to Mexico. A small number remain in Arizona all winter
long in urban areas, visiting bird feeders and nesting in any tree
that provides some cover from the sun. In the open desert, white-wings
concentrate on the saguaro bloom and nest in mesquite or Palo Verde
trees along washes.
I look forward to opening day of dove season the way some people
look forward to meeting a friend they haven’t seen for a year. My
first hunting experience was a dove hunt with my father when I was
14. I killed several doves that day, but the doves I killed (and
ate that night) aren’t what I remember most. What I remember best
is my dad standing 30 yards away to my right as both of us waited
by the canal bank near Maricopa and watched the doves come toward
us in the dawn.
Dove hunting is the perfect first hunting experience for a youngster.
A typical dove hunt involves finding a spot where doves are flying,
standing in one place, and shooting as the doves pass by or overhead.
This is perfect for a young hunter. They can concentrate on where
the barrel of the gun is pointing, make sure the safety is on, and
practice turning the safety off as they swing the gun with the target.
Dove hunting is wingshooting in its purest form. Watch the dove,
bring up the gun, click off the safety, shoot, and follow through.
The best way to have a successful dove hunt is to locate concentrations
of doves before opening day. Doves follow a predictable routine.
In the evening, they fly to roosts. Most roost in thickets of vegetation,
either trees along washes or (in agricultural areas), windbreaks.
At dawn, doves typically fly to food and water, in that order.
To breast a dove, pinch the skin on top of the breast and make a
small cut or tear in the skin. Then peel the skin with the feathers
away from the breast. Lift the breast away from the bird by putting
your thumb underneath the breast bone. Cooking shears can make a
nice neat job of this, although they are not really necessary. As
with all game meat, the earlier you clean the bird, and the sooner
you can get it cooled, the better it will taste. Experienced hunters
bring a cooler with ice with them on the hunt to put cleaned birds
in. Remember that regulations stipulate that you have to leave one
fully feathered wing attached until you get the birds home.
is the time for parents to prepare for the junior dove hunt at Robbins
Butte Wildlife Area, just a few miles southwest of Buckeye on Highway
85. This “juniors only” hunt on Sept. 3—4 gives hunters up to age
17 a chance to pursue doves without adult competition. Hunters under
14 may hunt without a license when accompanied by a licensed adult.
Each adult can bring up to two young hunters. Come early to select
a hunting station for a fun-filled morning. Afterward, visit the
check in tables and enjoy a free breakfast provided by the Chandler
Rod and Gun Club. Oh, and don’t forget to bring plenty of shells.
This area can produce lots of chances to fill your bag.
opportunities for hunters
The Arizona Game and Fish Department's volunteer program provides
many opportunities for volunteers to participate, firsthand, in
Arizona’s wildlife resources. Our goal is to provide you with
a congenial and cooperative atmosphere where you can build relationships
with staff and other volunteers, and gain knowledge about Arizona
wildlife and wildlife management. We recognize your time is important
and worthwhile, and will strive to provide a variety of rewarding
and educational volunteer experiences.
We’ve listed some opportunities below that we think you might
find interesting. For more opportunities or to submit information
about a project that would benefit from volunteers, check our volunteer
page for more opportunities or e-mail our volunteer
Recent project: volunteers clear the way
More than 40 volunteers recently got together to clear invasive
piñon pine and juniper encroaching on antelope habitat in
the Coconino National Forest near Kinnikinick Lake. It was not all
work and no play for volunteers, who enjoyed a top sirloin dinner
with all the trimmings after a day in the field. The June 25 event
involved volunteers from the Arizona Antelope Foundation, Arizona
Wildlife Federation, the Sierra Club, Grand Canyon Trust and Arizona
Aug. 20 and Sept. 24, 2005
9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Take part in a habitat
restoration for antelope and grasslands birds. Contact Rick
Keller at 928-214-1258.
Oct. 22, 2005
Altar Valley Ranch Cleanup
Help landowners overwhelmed by trash left by undocumented aliens.
Drop off full trash bags at base camp and be treated to lunch, drinks
and door prizes. For more information, e-mail Gabriel
Paz, call the Tucson Game and Fish office at 520-628-5376, or
visit the Web site for Arizona
Hunters Who Care.
Sport Fishing Education Program
Volunteer to help promote fishing and fishing skills to people of
all ages, especially beginning anglers. Nothing beats helping someone
catch their first fish and seeing their smile. Please contact Doug
Thornburg, Aquatic Education Coordinator at 623-236-7240.
Ben Avery Line Safety Officers
Line Safety Officer volunteers help provide for the safe operation
of the public shooting range at the Ben Avery Shooting Facility
in north Phoenix, checking the safe condition of customer firearms,
observing participants while they are shooting on the range, and
maintaining safe operation of the shooting line. Training is provided
at no cost. For more information, contact Larry
Collins at 623-582-8313.
1 No. 1 Aug. 2005
In this issue:
follow-up: Endless possibilities
hunting in Arizona
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and contact information. Edit
Game recipe: smoked dove paté
10 dove breasts
Place in low heat smoker for one hour (one pan of apple wood chips).
Cook in microwave until just done.
Combine dove meat with:
1 clove garlic
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cap full Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. basil
1 tsp. allspice
Blend in food processor until consistency is smooth and add water
slowly to assist.
Cream cheese and a little mayonnaise can be used as a binding agent,
replacing the water.
Do you have a photo and story you’d like to share about a
youth hunt (your own, or that of your child or grandchild)? We’d
like to share stories of our amazing junior hunters in each issue
of Hunting Highlights. Send your picture and a story to the Hunting
Ask a wildlife manager
Is there something you’ve always wanted to ask your local
game warden but never got around to? All questions are fair game
in this regular feature, from “where is the best place to
go dove hunting around here?” to “what’s the most
interesting bust you’ve ever made?” If you’ve
got a question for our wildlife managers, e-mail the Hunting
Are you excited about the mission and activities of your
wildlife conservation organization? In the conservation spotlight,
our readers will share your excitement. To get your group into
the spotlight, e-mail the Hunting
Do you have a photo and story you’d like to share about your
recent hunting trip? We’d like to share a “been hunting?”
in each issue of Hunting Highlights. Send your picture and a brief
story to the Hunting
Dates to remember
Sept. 7: Sandhill Crane applications due
Oct. 11: Spring draw applications due
Mar. 25—26: Shooting Showcase