Dove season opens Thursday
• Dove hunting lasts from Sept. 1-15.
• Hunting begins a half hour before sunrise until sunset.
• Hunters must have written permission to hunt on private lands.
• Discharging a firearm is prohibited within a quarter-mile of an occupied structure or any land with a posted no hunting sign.
• Hunting is prohibited with shotguns with a capacity of more than three shells unless a plug is inserted.
• For identification purposes, hunters must leave at least one intact wing on the bird until reaching their final destination.
• Hunters 16 and older need a hunting license and a migratory bird stamp.
• 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.
Source: Arizona Game and Fish Department
Thousands of hunting enthusiasts will descend on area fields and washes today to kick off the two-week dove hunting season.
“It's looking like a solid year. I've been out scouting and I have been seeing a good population of birds,” said Richard Sprague, owner of Sprague's Sports Shop. “My customers have been seeing lots of birds and I even have had some farmers tell me that it's the best year they've seen in four or five years.”
Sprague said the basic requirements to have a large dove population are all currently present in Yuma County.
“The feed, the crops and what's available for them to eat looks good this year,” Sprague said. “Plus the citrus trees, even though their numbers are down a little, give the birds a good place to roost. And we still have the desert, where they can be found in wide open areas as well.”
Since the season opens on a weekday this year, Sprague said he believes many people will wait until the holiday weekend to maximize their field time.
“I think some of the (hunters) might skip the opener and come in on the weekend,” Sprague said. “It might be a nice, prolonged period of activity to start the season.”
Some of the prime local hunting areas in years past have been the Yuma Valley, North Gila Valley up to Mittry Lake, the mesa south of Marine Corps Air Station Yuma and Dome Valley east up to the Dateland area, but hot spots can vary from year to year.
“Since doves are migratory birds, they move around and they're not going to be in the same spot,” said Chris Bedinger, spokesman for Arizona Game and Fish Department. “If you had a good spot last year, there's no guarantee (the birds) will be there this year. So the best thing you can do is scout an area before you go hunting.”
The only major change this year affecting hunters in Yuma County will be the new rule on bag limits.
In the past hunters were allowed 10 birds a day with a limit of six white-winged doves, but AGFD amended the rules to allow hunters to have any combination in their 10 bird limit.
And despite passage of SB 1334, which lifted restrictions on discharging a firearm in city limits if you are lawfully in pursuit of wildlife or hunting, the effect will have little impact in the Yuma area.
“It hasn't affected Yuma much because we already had an agreement with the city for hunters to use desolate, annexed lands as long as they're not within a quarter mile of an occupied building,” Bedinger said. “This law really only affected Phoenix and Tucson where it opened up about a million acres of land for hunting.”
Bedinger said hunters need to be aware at all times of their surroundings and need to ensure ahead of time if the land they are using is appropriate for hunting.
For more information visit the Arizona Game and Fish Department at www.azgfd.gov.