Dove Hunting Guide

Yuma Dove Hunting: things Every Hunter should Know

- By Jean Wilson

When it comes to hunting dove in Yuma and surroundin­g areas, the question is always asked, “Where is the best place to go to harvest my limit?” Our Arizona Game and Fish Department at Region IV working with our Yuma community partners has come up with a great bunch of informatio­n to help you answer most all of your questions to make this year’s hunt an extra good one.

If you have access to a computer, pull up “Yuma Dove Hunting” and you’ll have it all at your fingertips. If you lack access to a computer, let me attempt to cover most everything you might need or want to know in order to make the most of your hunt time while you have the opportunit­y.

How’s the dove hunting going to be this season?

That’s the question on the mind of everyone who has been waiting since last year to get to try their luck with firearm in hand. In any given year, an estimated 20 million to 30 million mourning doves — and another 2 to 3 million of the bigger white-winged doves — are residing in our area come opening day Sept. 1. The one thing that might put a slight damper on results is an unexpected rain. But that is not expected so we can plan on our results to be good ones.

“It’s going to be a good year,” said Johnathan O’Dell, a small game biologist for the Arizona Game and Fish Department. “A ‘down’ year for us is 20 million. An ‘up’ year is 30 million. I’ve never worried about doves not being here on opening day. There’s a lot of them.” O’Dell said he hopes hunters see a few more of the preferred white-winged making up their bag limit this season. “We’re seeing big increases in whitewinge­d doves,” O’Dell said. “They’re

expanding their range, and I think that’s partially due to a lot of agricultur­al practices across the country. I think we have 22 states harvesting them now, compared to when there were only four or five states back in the day.”

The Yuma area continues to be the premier destinatio­n for what some hunters consider to be the best wing-shooting action north of Argentina

Banners welcome hunters. Yuma’s motels, restaurant­s and sporting goods stores look forward to doing a brisk business over the next two weeks. It has been estimated that dove hunters pump up to $5 million into the city’s economy and that is much appreciate­d by us all.

As AZ Game and Fish put it, “A good place to start your scouting is using Google Earth, com/earth. This valuable tool is great for locating water holes, dense roosting sites, and travel corridors before you gas up the truck for an on-the-ground inspection.” The agency added, “Another great website for scouting is Rain Log, This site is a great way to find out the amounts of rainfall across the state. Knowing this informatio­n will help you strategize your hunt. For example, if the area you hunt has been dry, find the biggest waterhole in the area and wait for the flights. If the opposite condition exists, focus your hunt around large roosting areas, or concentrat­ed food sources.”

No matter where you hunt, be ever on the watch for snakes while hunting doves

September weather in our area is prime for the slithery, crawley creatures to be out and about, poisonous along with the non-poisonous. With that in mind, even though it’ll be ‘warm-ish’ while you’re

on the hunt, it might be good to wear boots or closed toed shoes and even long pants (wet yourself down when/if you get too hot), and when retrieving harvested doves, be absolutely sure of what you are reaching for.

You might consider taking in the Yuma Proving Ground for dove this year

Hunting is open in accordance with U.S. Army regulation­s to properly licensed hunters holding a valid Yuma Proving Ground permit. Restricted areas are closed to the taking of wildlife. Hunting is allowed only in designated hunt areas. Hunting access permit holders are required to sign a Hold Harmless Agreement and complete a Range Safety Briefing. Occasional­ly, due to military activities, some affected hunt areas may be temporaril­y closed — it's a good idea to visit

For hunting at national wildlife refuges in Arizona in designated areas call Imperial NWR at 928 783-3371; for Cibola NWR, the best dove hunting areas in 43A are along the Colorado River and in Cibola with a lot of birds along the Oxbow Rd., between Ehrenberg and Cibola with the heaviest concentrat­ions starting around 10 miles north of the Cibola Bridge. Many dove are flying back and forth across the river between CA and AZ around the Cibola Farmer’s Bridge. Call 928 857-3253. Note: The entire refuge is non-toxic shot only; The fee is $65 for the Hunt Permit on the Cocopah Reservatio­n — on sale at the Cocopah Gift Shop located at the Hotel and Casino — also at Sprague’s Sports. Also visit www.; * The Quechan Tribal Fish and Game Office can be reached at (760) 572-0544; The Quigley Wildlife Area is a 612-acre property managed by Game and Fish and located within the Gila River floodplain about 40 miles east of Yuma (north of I-8 — exit on Ave. 40E). Check out possible grain fields for some excellent opportunit­ies for dove hunters willing to travel the short distance from Yuma. Usually, farmers located at desert areas surroundin­g Yuma prefer having hunters ask permission before hunting on their

property as a courtesy.

If you have a question or need additional informatio­n please contact AZGFD office in Yuma at 928 342-0091 — they are glad to answer any question or need you might have.

Dealers in Yuma:

Sprague’s Sports Shop at 345 W. 32nd St. 928

726-0022 — there is also an indoor shooting range at Sprague’s in case you need some last minute practice and be sure to check our their

Big Breast Contest in the Events Section of this special to the Yuma

Sun — you won’t want to miss it; Walmart (central Yuma) 2900 S. Pacific Ave., 928 344-0992; Walmart (West Yuma) at 2501 S. Ave. B, 928 317-2776; or Walmart (Foothills) 8151 E. 32nd St. 928 3445974; or Sportsman’s Warehouse at Palms Plaza at east 16th Street and north Pacific Avenue.

“Agricultur­e plays a huge part in where white-winged doves are located. They’re always looking for small grains. If we have a lot of sorghum, millet, milo, sunflowers, that kind of stuff, it really brings them in.” And while thinking of agricultur­e and our Yuma area farmers, it’s very important to pick up any and all spent shells and other litter — Leave it better than you find it — before leaving a field. Farmers MUST keep their fields clean of any debris and the shells not only are litter, they can cause breakage of equipment parts when left in the fields — a very expensive and unnecessar­y expenditur­e for the farmer that can cause us not to be welcome next time. So keep your thinking cap on and make good judgments while out hunting — your future hunting opportunit­ies, and mine, may depend on it. There have been grain fields planted to provide a source of food for dove in the Yuma area as farming shifts to produce so please observe all posted areas to keep those hunting privileges for all of us in the years to come.

The 15-day “early” season gets underway 30 minutes before legal sunrise on opening day so decide where your hunt will begin to be in the field and ready for the birds to begin flying close to sunrise 6:08 a.m.

well as plenty of cool drinking water. Our Yuma area weather will be inclined to be plenty warm enough as the day progresses. Bring along mosquito repellent (with DEET is best) and it’s always a good idea to wear a hat to keep your head a bit cooler when the sun comes out with a vengeance as well as long sleeves do well to keep gnats and other bitie creatures from bugging you while you’re taking your shots. The daily bag limit is 15 mourning and whitewinge­d, of which no more than 10 may be white-winged. The possession limit is 45 mourning and white-winged in the aggregate after opening day, of which no more than 15 may be taken in any one day. Of the 45-dove possession limit, only 30 may be white-winged, of which no more than 10 may be taken in any one day. There is no daily bag limit or possession limit on the invasive Eurasian collareddo­ve (no time limit either — you can hunt them all year long). Don’t hesitate taking Eurasians, their breasts are almost as good eating as mourning and white-winged doves when kept cool in the field (all doves), then defeathere­d and cleaned as soon as you get to your final destinatio­n for the day to keep the great quality of the meat we enjoy so much. I've found that removing the breast from the rest of the bird without actually defeatheri­ng it is quicker than older ways and deboning the breast makes it simple come cooking time. If you do your own cooking, I’ll include some great recipes for dove further on in this article that are mouth watering and well worth your time and effort.

For everything else “dove,” visit www. Also, check out O’Dell’s video demonstrat­ing two techniques for field-dressing doves. Also check out ‘Yuma Area Dove Opportunit­ies’ for maps of Yuma areas including the Arizona Island on the California Side of the Colorado River (northeast of downtown Yuma, typically accessed via the Colorado River Levee heading east, directly south of Paradise Casino).

For readers who many not know, dove hunters play an important role in conservati­on. Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoratio­n Program (WSFR) funds are comprised of excise taxes collected on the sale of hunting and fishing equipment (including 11 percent on ammunition), the benefit of which comes right back to Arizona for habitat improvemen­ts, shooting ranges, boating access and more.

Finally, if you haven’t heard about the Desert Challenge, you are invited to participat­e in the Arizona Small Game Challenge, which offers four unique opportunit­ies to harvest several small game species in some of the most spectacula­r areas in the state. A hunter only needs five of seven desert species to complete the Desert Challenge, and three of those species are doves — mourning, whitewinge­d and Eurasian collared. With the dove season upon us, register today and get a jump-start toward completing that first Challenge! More informatio­n at smallgame/challenge-info/. Might be fun to get in on this one. Good luck and happy hunting!

 ?? Photo by John Duncan ??
Photo by John Duncan
 ?? Photos by Randy Hoeft/Yuma Sun ?? Joe Baumgartne­r (right) and David Russo share a laugh before the birds start flying.
Photos by Randy Hoeft/Yuma Sun Joe Baumgartne­r (right) and David Russo share a laugh before the birds start flying.

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