Dove season, an Arizona tradition, opens on Sept. 1 and runs through Sept. 15. Even with the weekday opener, new all-day hunting hours allow many hunters to modify their schedules to take in five days straight of wing-shooting action.
All-day hunts are just the beginning. Bag limits for white-winged doves have been increased to 10. This allows hunters to fill their daily ten-bird bag limit with any mix of mourning and white-winged dove. However, for most, mourning doves will make up the majority of the dove hunter’s harvest.
Even better news, say no more to not knowing where you can hunt doves because of annexation of open lands. Arizona Game and Fish has created a clearly defined “no-hunting” map for the Phoenix metro area. Dove hunters can easily identify the boundaries of the no hunting zone and surmise where it is legal to pursue dove this season.
Due to recent state law changes, Game and Fish now regulates where firearms can be used for hunting wildlife, including in municipal boundaries. These changes have opened up many areas to hunting that had previously been closed, primarily tracts of undeveloped, uninhabited land that had been annexed by municipalities but might not be developed for years. Hunters need to thoroughly read the regulations this year to understand the new changes, open areas, and any restrictions.
Because of the extremely hot and dry conditions, birds will be concentrated and seeking out dependable water sources. Desert seeds are all but absent, and those open desert areas without a dependable water source will be unproductive. The best action will be near agricultural areas that provide food, water and resting areas. Because farm fields are private lands, best bets can be in the flight path on the lands adjacent to these farms.
Good dove hunting areas include the Gila River corridor, Aguila, Tonopah, open areas along the canal systems, along the Salt River corridor, Queen Creek, Santa Cruz Flats near Picacho, and those large desert water tanks that only you know about.
Given the popularity of dove hunting, and the new laws that open up hunting in areas that have been closed for years, hunters need to follow some “good neighbor” practices:
Observe the quarter mile rule – Hunters should have a full circle from where they are shooting equal to eight football fields (four in each direction) with no buildings or roadways in view.
Respect private property – Hunters are required to have written permission to hunt on private lands.
Hunt safely – Know your zone of fire, your target and beyond. A little hunter orange helps make you visible to others, but not to doves if you’re still. Exercising safe hunting practices is especially important during these dry conditions that will have many dove hunters concentrated around waterholes and popular hunting areas.
Be aware of high pollution advisories (HPAs) – Recent weather conditions have caused high pollution advisories. Hunters that use off-highway vehicles may have to follow use restrictions in certain areas during an HPA; for details visit www.azgfd.gov/ohv.
Be aware of heat advisories – The weather conditions the past few weeks have triggered multiple heat advisories and warnings. Hunters should bring plenty of water and consider not using a dog during heat advisories.
For those last-minute planners, don’t forget to be sure the plug is in your shotgun, and that you have your hunting license, migratory bird stamp and plenty of shells. The license and stamp are available at Game and Fish offices and website, as well as license dealers statewide.
If you’re already running to the store, be sure to pick up all the ingredients for a no-fail dove kabob recipe to share your harvest. After that, set your alarm for 3:30 a.m., because first light comes fast in September. Happy hunting and be safe.
Visit the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s newly created dove hunting web page for maps, regulations, law changes, tips, and special dove hunting events at www.azgfd.gov/dove. For smartphone users, an abbreviated, mobile-friendly version is available at www.azgfd.gov/m.dove.