Preparations for opener and choosing where to hunt
Dove Hunt 2011
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Since the early days, Yuma has always been “the place to be” when dove seasons roll around, enticing out-of-town hunters from other areas all over Arizona as well as other states — and there are always plenty of birds to satisfy any hunter, resident or visitor who wants to fill that game bag.
The usual high summer-in-Yuma heat and humidity have us all preferring to be inside staying cool rather than outside preparing for the hunt season. However, there is plenty we can do inside to get ready, or to at least get us started.
Besides the much-needed practice that makes for a successful hunt — the cooler early-morning and late-evening practice makes it most comfortable — we can get busy “inside” cleaning and oiling our shooting equipment and making sure everything is in good repair along with stocking up on enough shells for the hunt.
We can even scout ahead of time, watching where and when the dove are flying and roosting, so we'll have a good idea where to begin come opening day. Our Yuma outlying areas are ideal with so much vacant land, agriculture, feedlots and citrus groves to check out, not to mention water and good roosting areas at our many canals, our ponds, lakes and along the Colorado and Gila rivers — and we can begin checking it early, a lot of the time in the comfort of our refrigerated vehicles.
Being able to hunt all day is a real bonus with temperatures not-so-sizzling hot early mornings and late afternoons. Such an improvement over the half-days we had to be content with until that changed last year.
One thing to keep in mind this year is the huge change concerning city limits. Thanks to SB 1334, passed by the Arizona Legislature this spring, and actions taken by the Game and Fish Commission, dove hunters will find it much easier to determine where it's legal to hunt once the season opens. As it stands now, Yuma city and county cannot enact any ordinance, rule or regulation limiting the take of wildlife during an open season established by the Arizona Game and Fish Commission.
However, restrictions in Arizona Revised Statutes Title 17 (state game laws) still apply, so be sure to get and study the Arizona Dove Regulations prior to your hunt and abide by those hunt rules and regulations. Be sure to read and thoroughly understand any publication Yuma makes available to us prior to the season opener as well. Note that the Game and Fish Commission and the department will work closely with the chiefs of police and other municipal leaders to thoughtfully and properly address concerns.
Opening up uninhabited and undeveloped public and state trust lands within Yuma city and county will make for an ideal hunt situation with the opportunity, for example, to take our youngsters to hunt closer to home and more often, a real improvement for outdoor families to be able to help pass on the hunting and outdoor traditions to future generations.
The other change this year that we'll appreciate is there is no more six white-wing limit. We can now take 10 dove max — 10 white-winged or 10 mourning dove or a combination of the two, a big improvement over other years. The 20 birds in possession remains the same. We can still hunt unlimited Eurasian collared dove.
Once you've decided on your hunt area, Game and Fish recommends checking it all out again a few days prior to opening day to be sure conditions haven't changed since you first made your hunt choices.
The department also reports it's a good idea, if you plan to hunt open desert areas, to concentrate on finding corridors and flight paths to feeding areas for morning hunts and target roosting areas in the afternoon. Sitting at a local water tank could be the least productive method depending on the water availability.
Hunters age 16 and older must obtain the required Arizona Migratory Bird Stamp prior to your hunt, and keep track of the season dates so you won't be hunting out of season.
If a hunter decides to clean his/her birds in the field before returning home, be real sure to pick up any leavings for proper disposal rather than leaving it all — or any other litter of any kind, in a farmer's field or other area. As hunters we MUST always “leave it better than we found it.”
When you are enjoying the hunt, be sure to have a ice chest or cooler to keep your birds in good condition once harvested. Be sure to leave one feathered wing attached to each bird, including the Eurasian dove, for identification until they reach their final destination.
Last, but not least, remember that we are responsible for cleaning up after ourselves. Shell casings (shotshell hulls) — these play havoc with farmers' tractors and other equipment — and other debris constitute litter and must be picked up and packed out — leave it better than you find it! This will help ensure we'll be welcome back another time.