The Arizona Game and Fish Commission approved new bag limits for dove season.
Hunters are now allowed 15, that's right, fifteen mourning dove per day! The limit on white-winged dove is still 10 birds. This new increase also affects the possession limit to 3 days' worth, 45 birds, of which no more than 30 can be white-winged doves.
The season opens September 1 and runs through September 15, 2014.
Get ready! It's going to be a blast!
2014-15 Dove Regulations
At first glance, these regulations may seem more complicated than in years past. The reason is, in past years it was up to the hunter to determine if the lands they wanted to hunt were actually open to hunting. In many cases the open, undeveloped, uninhabited, desert lands surrounding the metro areas were annexed by local municipalities and had general laws enacted restricting the use of firearms, including for legal hunting.
This meant hunters would need to pour over maps, websites, and other resources to determine who the landowner was to determine their current boundaries. Then they would have to contact the law enforcement agency in charge to see what ordinances they had for hunting. Finding this information was challenging at best and would have to be repeated each time when hunting a new area.
Now, that Game and Fish has the authority to regulate open hunting areas in municipalities, all the information you need to know about where to go dove hunting is in one location, the annual Arizona Dove and Band-tailed Pigeon regulations.
However, with this one-stop resource comes some complexities. Hunters need to read the notes section for each type of season before they go hunting. These notes address the detailed information about what areas are open, closed, have special restrictions, and they can vary by season, location, and hunt type. Violation of these notes can result in revocation of one’s hunting privileges.
Recent law changes are poised to correct these closures, but it’s up to dove hunters to be responsible, ethical and good neighbors to prevent the law from being changed again.
The 2013 Dove season looks promising in the Yuma area.As it stands in Mid-July the flights are plentiful and flocks are of good number.There are still plenty of grain fields standing and no doubt this is having an effect of keeping the birds in the local areas to feed.
Check out the new, www.yumadovehunting.com website for local information on the Yuma dove hunting hot spot. They have hunting information, events, activities, contests and visitor information.
When it comes to the early dove season, the hot action will typically be near agricultural areas with grain type crops growing or recently cut. While Arizona is well known for its cotton, the state also produces corn, sorghum, melons, barley, and even wheat – all great dove attractants.
However, there are plenty of opportunities to harvest a limit of these aerial acrobats in the open desert. Doves consistently move along natural landscape corridors of brush- and tree-lined washes. Birds will move to and from roosting sites, and food and water throughout the day. Sunrise and dusk are typically the best times to hunt these desert corridors.
Regardless of what type of hunt you choose, there is one common ingredient to a successful hunt, pre-scouting. Active crop locations, food, and water sources change from year-to-year, so don’t show up to last year’s honey hole on opening day without scouting – you may be in for a big disappointment.
Summer rains play a big role in the early dove season. No rain and you can bet all the birds will be at dependant man made food and water sources – aka agricultural areas. Throw in some heavy monsoonal storms before the season opener and doves can disperse throughout the desert to take advantage of the fresh weed crop making them difficult to hunt.
Photo: Google Earth view of drainage and natural flight corridor
A good place to start your scouting is using Google Earth, www.google.com/earth. This valuable tool is great for locating water holes, dense roosting sites, and travel corridors before you gas up the truck for an on-the-ground inspection. An added bonus is the site gives you GPS coordinates that you can load in as waypoints on your GPS device to assist your scouting.
Another great website for scouting is Rain Log, www.rainlog.org. This site is a great way to find out the amounts of rainfall across the state. Just because you got a big storm in your neighborhood doesn’t mean your favorite dove spot did, and vice versa. Knowing this information will help you strategize your hunt. For example, if the area you hunt has been dry, find the biggest waterhole in the area and wait for the flights. If the opposite condition exists, focus your hunt around large roosting areas, or concentrated food sources.
When you hit the field to do your scouting, preferably the week before the hunt, be sure to bring a pair of binoculars to assist in locating flights of birds, a good map (with landownership), and your GPS with your pre-scouting waypoint locations. If you find a good flight pattern get out of the vehicle and find out what the birds are doing, eating, drinking, loafing, roosting, etc. Knowing what activity they are doing, and the time of day will be valuable when you plan your hunt. Spending a half day and the gas to do so will pay off come opening day.
Photo: Rainlog.org view of rain measurements for 30 days.
Doves are incredibly fast – up to 55 mph. Doves are extremely agile – can change direction almost instantly. Doves are relatively small – 4 ounces, 12 inches long. Combine those ingredients and you have some challenging wing shooting. Common reasons for missing doves include taking shots at birds too far away or too high, shooting behind the bird, not picking one bird from a group (flock shooting), and waiting too late to take the shot.
A hunting license AND a migratory bird stamp are required for all hunters 16 and older. Youth hunters ages 14 and 15 do not need a migratory bird stamp, but do need a general hunting license. Up to two youth hunters 13 and under can hunt without a license or a stamp when accompanied by a licensed adult 18 or older.
Safety and Responsibility
Hunting in Arizona statistically is much safer activity than what some might perceive. Dove hunting is a very popular tradition, and more than 30,000 participate each year – typically the opening weekend. Here are a couple of basic safety tips, that in nearly all cases – will prevent an accident.
Maintain your zone of fire – this is 45 degree field of view “between 10 and 2 o’clock” in front of the hunter.
Shoot for the sky – all shots should be above the tree line, birds should have clear sky above and below for a safe shot around other hunters and dogs.
Know your range – don’t hunt too close to others, at 100 yards (football field) birdshot pellets can still have an impact.
T.A.B. +1 – Treat every firearm like it’s loaded; Always keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction; Be sure of your target and beyond; +1 keep your finger off the trigger until you are certain of your shot and ready to shoot.
Unloaded and stored – Be sure to unload you firearm before you return to your vehicle and stow it safely. Never lean a loaded gun on the side of a vehicle, on the tailgate, in the truck, or otherwise.
Rattlesnakes are typically active during the early dove season. Dove hunters should avoid walking directly through thick cover, or blindly grab a downed bird from the brush without carefully looking for snakes. Gun dogs should be snake broken. Finally, snakes are also a part of our environment. Leave them alone, and they will do the same to you. There are 13 rattlesnake species in Arizona, to learn more click here.
Late season dove hunting tips:
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.
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 combined together in a hearty soup or gumbo perfect for the cool fall weather.
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 your 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 your 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 while you can still see and find them.
Gear and Equipment
Any style shotgun in any gauge that you shoot well is perfect for dove hunting.
Shot sizes from No. 7 ½, 8s or 9s will work just fine bringing down a dove, while they are fast, they are not overly tough on the wing.
Camouflage clothing is not as necessary as much as standing still and breaking up your silhouette.
Hunter orange is not mandatory, but a little is a great way to help others see you in the field in those pre-dawn hours.
Hunters should have ear and eye protection, water, hat, sunscreen, bug spray, bags and cooler to store their harvest.
Juniors-Only Dove Hunt Robbins Butte Wildlife Area
Event Date: Sept. 6-7, 2014
The Game and Fish’s Robbins Butte Wildlife Area is 1681 acres of quality wildlife habitat along the lower Gila River just southwest of Buckeye, Ariz.. Game and Fish actively manages the land, and due to the water corridor it is rich with mesquite trees, wildlife food crops, and nesting habitat that attracts an abundance of dove (white-winged and mourning) and other wildlife.
A portion of the wildlife area only opens for the juniors-only dove hunter. Designated hunting stations ensure a safe shooting environment just for the kids. To enrich the experience, Game and Fish provides hayrides to and from these stations. After the fast dove hunting action, the Chandler Rod and Gun Club serves up its famous pancakes and sausage breakfast, that has become as traditional as the dove hunt itself.
Who: Kids 17 years and younger can hunt; family and friends are welcome as spectators and mentors.
What: Annual juniors-only dove hunt
Where: Robbins Butte Wildlife Area, southwest of Buckeye off State Route 85. Click here for Google Maps location.From Phoenix are, take I-10 west to exit 112, Yuma - San Diego, take Highway 85 south approximately seven miles, the wildlife area is just after crossing the Gila River on the right.
When: Sept. 7-8, 2013 at 4:30 a.m. for check-in and safety briefing.
Why: Safe, organized, introduction to dove hunting.
What to wear: The dove hunt is in the open desert environment. All attendees should wear appropriate outdoor clothing such as long pants, long sleeved shirts, boots, and a hat. Hunter orange clothing is not mandated but is recommended.
What to bring: A shotgun .410 to 12 gauge, plenty of shotgun shells in no. 7 1/2, 8 or 9 shot (100+), eye and ear protection, a small cooler for your birds, water, bug repellent, sun block, snacks, something to sit on, a camera, and more shot gun shells – beginners can shoot as many as 10 times for every dove harvested.
License requirements: A general hunting license, or an Apprentice License, and a migratory bird stamp are required for the dove hunt. Hunters under the age of 14 may hunt without a license when accompanied by a licensed adult (each licensed adult can bring up to two young hunters). Discounted youth licenses are available. Licenses and stamps can be purchased from over 300 license dealers, Game and Fish offices, or online at www.azgfd.gov.
Following the early dove season, the majority of the area is open to hunting for all and provides great times for people of all ages to enjoy. Many families come out regularly to enjoy the rabbit, dove and quail hunting, wildlife watching, or photography opportunities.
Other Dove Hunting Opportunities
The Arizona Game and Fish Department has teamed up with local sportsmen-conservation organization to offer “how-to dove hunt” events that are designed for kids and for first-time hunters. These events are a great way to get a “hands on” experience hunting doves.
Sept. 1 & 3: Youth Dove Hunting Clinic and Hunt - Safford - This hands on training and hunt is for first time youth hunters hosted by the Arizona Game and Fish Department. Participants will learn about dove hunting and firearm safety, dove ecology and management, species identification, equipment and gear, where to find, hunt, clean and cook dove; preregistration required; open to ages 9 to 15 accompanied by adult. Contact: Devin Skinner (520) 591-7880, or email@example.com.
Sept. 12 and 14, C.J. Biller Memorial Beginner’s Dove Hunt and Training - East Valley (Phoenix/Mesa/Chandler) - This is for first-time hunters for kids and adults. A safety seminar will be held on Thursday, Sept. 12 at 7 p.m. and the hunt will be held on Saturday, Sept. 14 at 5 a.m. Some loaner shotguns and ammunition are available. Hosted by Arizona Game and Fish, Chandler Rod and Gun Club, Youth Outdoors Unlimited, Arizona Outdoor Sports, contact David Carson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dec. 7-8: Picket Post Small Game Hunting Camp - Geared toward new and novice hunters of all ages. Includes instruction and mentoring on small game hunting (dove, quail, rabbits and coyotes), and shooting techniques; food and firearms are provided. Hosted by: Game and Fish - Mesa, Youth Outdoors Unlimited, and Red Bear, register at www.youthoutdoorsunlimited.com.
Recent law changes will increase dove hunting access compared to recent years. Now, approximately 1 million acres of open, undeveloped, uninhabited desert areas within city limits are now open to dove hunting.
Nevertheless, hunters can’t expect carte blanche access. The Game and Fish Commission has taken a conservative, thoughtful approach in its deployment of these shifted or modified authorities.
For instance, Game and Fish has closed hunting in a well-defined, densely populated, core area within Metro-Phoenix (see "Restrictions in Metro Areas" section below for map).
Even with these no hunting areas, the changes still maximizes hunting opportunity, while at the same time minimizing potential conflicts with urban communities.
The public should not be concerned about these new changes having an effect on the safety in their communities. It is important to note that even before these changes, there are three existing key state laws that make it illegal to hunt near homes, roadways, or trespass on private property, including:
A.R.S. § 17-309 (a)(4) It is unlawful for a person to:
"Discharge a firearm while taking wildlife within one-fourth mile of an occupied farmhouse or other residence, cabin, lodge or building without permission of the owner or resident."
A.R.S. § 17-301(b):
"...No person may knowingly discharge any firearm or shoot any other device upon, from, across or into a road or railway."
A.R.S. § 17-304 provides provisions for private landowners ensuring:
A person may not trespass on private property for taking wildlife if that property is posted ‘no
hunting’ or if a person is asked to leave by the
For further assurance of safe implementation of these law changes, Game and Fish has imposed the following additional regulatory restrictions:
Open Areas do NOT include areas within municipal parks, municipal preserves, county parks, county preserves, airports, golf courses, or posted water treatment facilities (except as specifically opened in this Commission Order)
No taking of wildlife, except fish and reptiles, within 1/4 mile of developed areas in county parks that have been opened to hunting by the Arizona Game and Fish Commission orders.
No hunting area defined within the core Phoenix metropolitan area, except county islands.
No hunting for doves on private property in Game Management Units 11M (Flagstaff metro) and 38M (Tucson metro) that fall within city limits.
No use of centerfire firearms on private property in city limits to take of wildlife.
These new law changes improve previous laws with good intentions, that unfortunately had a sweeping effect preventing hunters from using open, undeveloped, uninhabitated public and state trust lands for safe, and legal hunting recreation.
The intent of the new laws is not to open all areas up to hunting, but to preserve the ability to hunt in areas where it is appropriate to do so.
The process of finding a safe, legal area to hunt doves and other game, will be simplified with the implementiation of the new laws. Safe hunting in these open areas has been an Arizona tradition for nearly a hundred years.
Prior to the change, hunters would need to pour over maps, websites, and other resources to determine who the municipal landowner was to determine their current boundaries. That in itself was a challenge with all the annexation on the fringe during the housing boom. Then responsible hunters would have to contact the law enforcement agency for that area to determine if there were ordinances against hunting with a firearm.
These conditions were increasingly becoming a burden, and a barrier to hunting, particularly dove and other upland game. To avoid conflicts, dedicated dove hunters were forced to drive farther, and farther out of town to find open state trust lands, BLM lands, county lands, or seek permission from private landowners outside of city limits to take part in a longstanding Arizona tradition.
Furthermore, in these continuing trying economic times, these burdens could potentially be too great for the average dove hunter, resulting in them leaving their shotgun in the gun safe and giving up on passing on the tradition to the next generation, decreasing revenue for wildlife conservation and local communities.
New Law Changes
A.R.S. §13-3107 and §13-3108 were revised by the Arizona Legislature and approved by Governor Brewer through SB 1334 (on April 29, 2011) and HB 2543 (in 2010).
These laws transfer authority to regulate the take of wildlife in municipalities and counties to the Arizona Game and Fish Commission, by permitting the discharge of a firearm within the limits of any municipality, park, or preserve while lawfully taking wildlife during an open season.
These new laws provide a consistent and transparent approach through the Arizona Game and Fish Commission, a five-member public board, for addressing potential public safety concerns and establishing a balance among the needs of hunters, wildlife-related recreational users and other citizens.
The intent of the Game and Fish Commission is not to open every possible area to hunting, but to preserve the ability to hunt in areas where it is appropriate to do so (for example, those large tracts of outlying lands that have been annexed by municipalities but not yet developed).
Frequently Asked Questions
These changes will certainly trigger a number of questions by hunters, citizens, municipalities and local law enforcement agencies.
The Arizona Game and Fish Department has compiled a listing of the many questions that we ran into when getting ready to implement these new law changes.
They address the law, hunter information, open areas, city parks, safety and more. Furthermore, in this section is a large-format pamphlet that addresses many of the highpoints of these changes.
There is nothing like the feeling of shooting a dove at first light on a humid Arizona morning, but sometimes, the best part of the hunt is sharing your harvest with close friends and family members. Here is a tried and true recipe, guaranteed to get you excited about that 3 a.m. wakeup.
Using filleted dove meat marinated in Italian dressing, onions, green peppers, red peppers, bacon, and corn. Then build your kabob to your tastes. Grill on the top rack (or indirectly) for 15 minutes to bring all the ingredients to temperature, then cook on the bottom rack over hot fire, quickly, for about 5 minutes. Dove meat should be rare to medium-rare for best taste. Serve with cheese-garlic toast and wild rice. Will feed 6-10 people.
10 dove breasts – filleted off breast bone
2 bell peppers
2 red peppers
1 large red onion
4 ears of corn
1 pound bacon
2 cups Italian dressing
Remove dove breast from bone and quarter. Marinate in Italian dressing for 1-2 hours. Chunk cut peppers and onions. Slice corn into one-inch wide wheels. Slice bacon into 3-4 inch strips. On a skewer, alternate vegetables and dove, using bacon on both sides of meat and an onion slice by the bacon.
But the fun is, you can build them how you like. Slow cook over indirect heat for 15 minutes, then cook on hot grill, basting with Italian dressing often. Dove should be cooked rare to medium-rare.
About Hunting and Conservation
AMERICAN WILDLIFE CONSERVATION MODEL
of whether one chooses to actively
participate in hunting or angling,
people interested in wildlife and
its future should understand the conservation
role sportsmen play.
Hunting and angling
are the cornerstones of the North
American Model of Wildlife Conservation.
These activities continue to be the
primary source of funding for conservation
efforts in North America. Through
self-imposed excise tax on hunting,
angling and shooting sports equipment,
hunters and anglers have generated
more than $10 billion toward wildlife
conservation since 1939.
Concepts of Conservation:
Wildlife is Held in the Public
Regulated Commerce in Wildlife
Hunting and Angling Laws are
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. Dove hunting seasons are regulated and maintain doves as a sustainable wildlife resource. Dove hunters are a valuable conservation tool. There is an excise tax on firearms and ammunition that is contributed to the federal Pitman-Robertson Fund, which in turn is apportioned to state wildlife agencies for the management of wildlife, which benefits 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. To learn more about this cycle of success, and the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Fund, visit /www.azgfd.gov/h_f/federal-aid-cycle.shtml.
Dove Season Dates
Sept. 1-15, 2014
Dove Early Season
Sept. 6-7, 2014
Juniors-only Robbins Butte Wildlife Area Dove Season
(see below for details)
Nov. 21, 2014 - Jan. 4, 2015
Dove Late Season
NEW! Bag limit: 15 birds per day Early season: 15 mourning, only 10 may be white-winged dove
Late season: 15 mourning dove
NEW! Possession limit: 45 birds
All day statewide: one-half hour before sunrise until sunset, all seasons and hunts
Open all year; unlimited bag and possession limit
For reference only,
please refer to the current Arizona
Dove and Band-tailed Pigeon Regulations for bag limits, open areas, restrictions, and other requirements.
Dove hunting like the
good ole days
These ongoing improvements are making it easier to grab your shotgun and go dove hunting, one of the most popular hunting activities in Arizona.
15 mourning dove bag limit
45 bird possession limit
30 bird possession limit
1 million+ acres opened to hunting - open, undeveloped, uninhabited public and state trust lands within city limits
10 white-winged dove bag limit
All day hunting statewide
Free apprentice license
"try before you buy"
Mentored dove hunting events for youth and new hunters
Online hunter education
Youth only dove hunting in special wildlife area
Discounted youth licenses
No license required for kids 13 and under with licensed adult
No hunter education required for small game hunting
Many of these changes happened through the efforts of the Game and Fish Commission, constituents, conservation organizations, and supporting legislators.
These are certainly accomplishments that will help carry on the dove hunting heritage in Arizona.
Grab and Go Info
Map of area closed to hunting in Phoenix metro
Dove regulations in printable format
Buy your dove hunting license and migratory bird stamp online
On the go? Have this vital information right at your fingertips:
Junior hunt wildlife area
New law changes
Social website sharing
Dove Species Information
Mourning doves are the most numerous and widespread game bird in North America. In Arizona, they occur from the lowest of deserts to the ponderosa pine forests. They are most identifiable by drab grey coloration, pointy tail, and extremely fast and agile flying skills. Learn more
White-winged dove are found primarily in the saguaro cactus Sonoran desert. They are larger than the mourning dove, and most distinguishable by the white band along each wing, wider rounded tail, blue eye and slow, casual flight patterns. Learn more
Eurasian collared-dove are an invasive, non-native species. They are the size of a common pigeon, and larger than both the mourning and the white-winged dove. The prominate black "collar" and the light buff gray plumage are most notable. Their flight is similar to a common pigeon and white-winged dove, but the absence of the white-winged bars are your best identifier in flight. Learn more
Other Dove Hunting Resources
Hunter Education - Whether you are new to hunting or just looking to take a refresher course and earn a permanent bonus point, our course covers firearm safety, ethics, wildlife identification, survival skills and much more. Courses are offered for classrooms and online. Learn more
Clay Target Shooting - Dove hunting will certainly make a shotgun shooter humble. Shooting a couple rounds of skeet is a great way to sharpen ones swing before the season opener. There many public shooting ranges that offer clay target shooting. For a map and list of the ranges, click here.
Stay Connected - Don't miss out on important information about upcoming seasons, hunting events, and other outdoor-related information from Game and Fish. Stay connected the way that works best for you either by email, RSS feeds, Facebook, Twitter (text alerts), or YouTube. Sign up here
Benefits of Dove Hunting
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.