PHOENIX – For the 35,000 or more dove-hunters that might have missed the news, here it is one more time. The September 1-15 dove season will be open to all-day hunting, statewide.
“Our data supports that it is time to return to all-day dove hunts in the early season. Times have changed with hunting areas being pushed further out of the urban center. That forces hunters to travel greater distances to take part in Arizona’s longstanding dove hunting tradition. On top of that, we are seeing reductions in the hunting pressure and harvest from what we had in the mid to late 1980s when we initiated the half-day hunts.” – AZ Game & Fish
With this change and a Wednesday opener, hunters that are unable to take the day off from work, or pull a young one out of school, can now head out to the field at quitting time and still have a chance to harvest some of the lightning-fast, acrobatic, adrenaline-pumping birds of the desert.
Biologists report dove reproduction is above average this year due to favorable winter and spring rains. However, once again, the summer monsoons have really kicked up these last few weeks before the season opener, including a couple of thunderous storms the past few days.
For white-winged doves this means many of the slower, squared-tailed birds have headed south. While they can only make up six of your 10-bird daily limit, hunters set on taking these slower, flap-and-coast birds should concentrate their efforts in areas with plenty of saguaro cactus in southern reaches of the state.
Furthermore, these storms will have mourning doves dispersed due to extensive water sources and plentiful food throughout. These conditions could be favorable for both kinds of dove hunters.
For those that prefer the traditional summer hunt focused around agricultural areas, many of which have planted more grains and corn the past couple of years, you will certainly see plenty of birds. Before you go, check your spot within a few days of your hunt to make sure fields have not been rotated. In addition, always hunt on public land or obtain written permission to hunt on private lands.
Hunters of open desert areas should concentrate on finding corridors and flight paths to feeding areas for morning hunts, and target roosting areas in the afternoon. Sitting a local water tank could be the least productive method this season due to all the water availability.
For the Sept. 1 opener, for western Arizona, sunrise is at 6:07 a.m. Hunters can begin shooting 30 minutes before sunrise; shooting hours end at sunset at 7:03 p.m. A listing of sunrise/sunset times, bag limits, season dates and more can be found in the 2010-11 Arizona Dove and Band-tail Pigeon Regulations at www.azgfd.gov/hunting under “Rules & Regulations.”
The most common violations during dove season are hunting within city limits and shooting within a 1/4 mile of a building. Most cities have ordinances prohibiting the discharge of firearms within city limits. A hunters best bet, is State Trust land which is open to hunting and is typically clearly marked.
Other items you need to remember to keep you legal are a valid hunting license (14 and older), an Arizona Migratory Bird Stamp (16 and older), and a maximum capacity of three (3) shells – counting the round in the chamber in your pump or autoloader (an unsharpened #2 pencil typically works if you lost the factory plug). Kids age 13 and younger (2 maximum) can hunt without a license when accompanied by a licensed adult.
Once you are legal, remember safety. Opening weekend can be a little crowded in some of the popular areas. Follow these tips to assure a safe hunt:
See: Be sure you can see what is around you. Look for other hunters in the area, and know your target and beyond.
Sky: Keep your shots up in the sky. If you are seeing green bushes in your field of view, the shot is too low.
Swing: Keep your swing within a 45-degree zone-of-fire. Take your shots between 10 and 2 o’clock of where you are facing.
Stow: Unload you firearm before you return to your vehicle and stow it safely. This is a great way to prevent accidents when the hunt is over.
So, if you love dove hunting but dread the 3 a.m. wake-ups, hit the snooze button and take in a sunset hunt.