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Dove season gives Yuma an economic boost
Yuma-area hotels, retailers and restaurants experienced a much-needed uptick in business this weekend thanks to the large presence of dove hunters who came for the opening day of dove season.
Hunters filled up many of the rooms at the Best Western Coronado Motor Hotel Friday night and celebrated with friends next door at the Yuma Landing in advance of an early hunt the next morning.
“Everybody in town needed this,” said Yvonne Peach, co-owner of the hotel. “It has been a long summer. It is very good for the Yuma economy. It brings a lot of money to Yuma. The restaurants are full, and I'm sure the stores are full.”
Richard Sprague, owner of Sprague's Sports, was pleased with the many hunters who came to his store for hunting gear.
“We have been very, very busy,” he said Saturday. “It has been a record turnout for us.”
The large amount of hunters in Yuma this weekend is a “good indicator” the economy may be improving, Sprague added. “I think the economy is definitely on the rebound.”
Since the opening day fell on Saturday this year, Sprague saw more kids involved in the hunt.
“When you see a weekend opener, you see more family together. We have sold more youth shotguns than normal because of that, which is great. I like to see the youngsters get involved and do things with their families. Overall it has been very, very good.”
After watching the sun rise over Yuma Saturday morning while hunting for dove, many of the hunters continued a time-honored tradition of going to Brownie's Cafe for a bite to eat once they had finished their hunt.
“Some of these guys I've known for years,” said Bobby Brooks, owner of the cafe, who noted the turnout appeared to be larger than in 2011.
“We were packed from when we opened at 6 a.m. until noon. It was better than last year. It is a good shot in the arm because we are coming off a slow summer. It is good for our whole town, and we can get rolling.”
Brooks made it a point to ask the hunters about the quality of their hunt when they came to dine at the cafe.
“They said the weather was wonderful this time. Several of them told me … the bird hunting was excellent. I didn't run into one negative person all morning.”
Sprague agreed that most hunters enjoyed the hunting conditions.
“I think the hunting has been pretty decent. Some people have been challenged a little bit, but by and large everyone seems to have had a pretty good Saturday.”
Over at Chretin's Restaurant and Cantina, about 300 hunters gathered to have their birds cleaned for free in the parking lot. That was three times the amount that showed up during the inaugural event 2011.
The turnout was “unbelievable,” said Geoff Preston, director of operations at Chretin's. “Compared to last year, it really picked up this year. I saw the number of out-of-towners increase from last year, so it is a good sign things are moving in the right direction.”
The hunters enjoyed the convenience of having their birds cleaned while sitting inside the air-conditioned restaurant and enjoying some Mexican food, Preston added.
“We cleaned just over 1,400 birds total. A lot of (the hunters) aren't from Yuma, so it got them out of the heat and gave them a place to cool down before hopefully going out and patronizing some more local businesses.
“Obviously the hunters enjoyed what we were trying to do, so we were pretty happy with it. We are happy to be a local place for these hunters to gather.”
Preston hopes to make the bird cleaning an annual tradition for dove hunters. “You can count on this year in and year out for another 65 years.”
Another long-established tradition, the Big Breast Contest, was unfolding across town at Sprague's Sports Saturday. It will continue through 5 p.m. Sunday.
There is no entry fee required for hunters to participate, although everyone who enters must have a hunting license.
There will be $1,400 worth of prizes given to those with the biggest mourning doves or whitewing doves. There will also be a drawing for a $1,000 Benelli shotgun that each participant in the Big Breast Contest is automatically entered into.
In addition, the Yuma Catholic High School 125 gun raffle will take place Sunday to benefit the school. Tickets are $25 each or five for $100. For more information, call 726-0022.
Chris McDaniel can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6849.