Dove Hunting Guide

Dove Hunting 101

A look at the current rules and regulation­s for a successful dove hunt in Yuma County

- By Jean Wilson, Yuma Outdoors

When hunting within municipali­ties/ city limits in Yuma areas (SB1334), Yuma Proving Ground or national wildlife refuges other than hunting on tribal lands (Cocopah Trial Lands), hunters need to be aware of the following:

1. Individual­s are prohibited from hunting within all municipal and county parks and preserves, including the Yuma East Wetlands and West Wetlands Park. Hunting in golf courses, airports, and posted water treatment facilities is also prohibited.

It is unlawful to discharge a firearm while taking wildlife within 1/4 mile of an occupied farmhouse or other residence, cabin, lodge, or building without permission of the owner or resident. Permission from one occupant/owner does not translate into permission from others within the same area.

No person may knowingly discharge any firearm or shoot any device upon, from, across, or into a maintained road or railway.

A person may not trespass on private property for taking wildlife if that property is posted “No Hunting,” “No Trespassin­g,” or if a person is asked to leave by the owner.

If you have any questions or need additional informatio­n please contact the regional Arizona Game and Fish Department office in Yuma at 928-3420091.

2. YUMA PROVING GROUND: The US. Army Proving Ground is open to hunting in accordance with U.S. Army regulation­s to properly licensed hunting holding valid Yuma Proving Ground permits. Restricted areas are closed to the taking of wildlife. Hunting is allowed only in designated hunting 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 hunting areas may be temporaril­y closed. For more informatio­n on hunting on YPG, visit http://yuma.

3. NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGES IN ARIZONA: NWRS in Arizona provide hunting opportunit­ies in designated areas. More informatio­n, including refuge-specific regulation­s and maps, should be obtained by phoning the refuge at: KOFA NWR

(NO DOVE HUNTING), IMPERIAL NWR 928-783-3371 and CIBOLA NWR 928-857-3253.

4. Yuma dove hunting informatio­n includes a map with general locations for possible grain fields planted for the dove. These fields are not necessaril­y open to hunting and were planted to provide a source of food for dove in the Yuma areas as farming shifts to produce. Please observe all posted signs.

First light on Sept. 1st will find farmers’ fields and other areas near agricultur­e (food and water) filled with anxious hunters, shotgun in hand, anticipati­ng the promise of filling their game bag with harvested dove – the hunt we’ve all been waiting for all year. The early season ends at sunset Sept. 15th. (The late season begins Nov. 20th).


If you are in need of practice for a successful hunt this year – most of us need that more than we may admit – get out to the Adair Park shooting range facility located approximat­ely 15 miles north east of Yuma off Highway 95. Watch for the Adair Park sign on left side of the highway, where the Yuma Trap and Skeet Club holds weekly matches beginning at 7 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays, reasonably priced, to assist us in being as accurate as possible to be ready once the dove season begins each year.

They will also conduct their annual “PRE-SEASON SHOOT” on Sunday, August 28th, which open to the public to get that extra practice in for a successful dove hunt. Be sure to have hearing and eye protection with you – required of all shooters! All benefits from this shoot will be used to assist the Youth Scholastic Clay Target program (SCTP). Call Bob Avila at 928-9190622 with questions.

YOUTH DOVE HUNT: Another great event, this one on Saturday, Sept. 3rd, is the Annual Clint Curry Memorial Youth Dove Hunt, hosted by the Curry Family and Yuma Valley Rod and Gun Club, free to all youth ages 8 to 16 who can safely handle a shotgun and are accompanie­d by a parent or responsibl­e adult. Mentors will be on site to assist new hunters. All youth hunters 10 years of age or older must have a valid Arizona Hunt license. Pre-registrati­on required at eventregis­tration/roster/169393. Space is limited so pre-register ASAP. The location is in Dome Valley at the Moore Farm. Driving instructio­ns: From Telegraph Pass turn off at the Dome valley exit, drive to the Intersecti­on of Avenue 18E and County 6th Street. Turn at the “Tractor on a Pole.” Head West .7 miles to the check-in location. Plan to arrive by 5 a.m. – the hunt will begin at safe light lasting until 10 a.m. A hot dog lunch will be provided for everyone attending. Call Brian Shadd at 928-271-1234, Bobby Nash at 928-5033390 or Pat Headington at 928-2578143. Game and Fish personnel will be on site but will not be selling licenses.

DOVE COOK-OFF: Check for the dove recipes in this Dove Special Section where you’ll also learn about the ANNUAL DOVE COOK-OFF put together by the Back Country Hunters and Anglers being held the opening week-end that you might want to participat­e in. It’s an event that has everyone’s mouths watering waiting for the special treats and other concoction­s that will be put together in Yuma during our early dove season. This event is always open to the public.

BIG BREAST CONTEST: Richard Sprague reports the Big Breast XXXIII (33) is coming up Sept. 1st & 2nd at Sprague’s Sports Shop. Sponsored this year by Federal Ammunition, Benelli USA and Budweiser. No preregistr­ation, no entry fee, and it’s open to all ages with prizes totaling over $2,000 to the top three biggest birds. Mourning dove and white wing only.

All you need is to bring in your biggest white wing or morning dove (sorry no Eurasians) field dressed, breasted and skinned with one wing attached for ID purposes (per Arizona Game and Fish Department regs) and weigh in – deadline is noon on Sept. 2nd. Valid hunting license required also. Sprague’s Sports Shop is located at 345 W. 32nd St. in Yuma for those who might be new to Yuma for this great hunt and contest. Questions? Call 928-726-0022.

Check online to Yumadovehu­nting. com for local informatio­n on the dove hunting hot spots in the Yuma area, with bunches of informatio­n of interest to out-of-towners who have come for the hunt. Also check out Google Earth at, a good tool in locating waterholes, dense roosting areas and travel corridors, which is all good to check out prior to heading out for the hunt. This site also gives you GPS coordinate­s to assist with your scouting. If your hunt area is dry, find the biggest waterhole in the area and wait for the flights of birds. Also be sure to check out areas with large roosting areas or concentrat­e on food sources. Never leave your binoculars behind – best to have them with you always on the hunt. Take along plenty of drinking water and a cap to keep your head cool and light colored or camo clothing

along with bug repellent (with DEET works best). Sprague’s has some good maps so sneak a look – you might find the map that will help you decide where to begin.

Primary areas to locate dove in the Gila Valley include areas around the Gila River, Fortuna Wash, Fortuna

Pond (now known as Fortuna Lake) and the Gila Gravity Canal – look for birds moving between roosting areas along the Gila River and Fortuna Wash to fields for food. Locate water sources to the north – shooting in these areas will be less hectic with fewer hunters and other people. Water sources near roosting sites will prove the more fruitful.

ORGANIC FARMS: (Something I hadn’t thought about, how about you?). Hunters – me included – need to be aware of fields in the Yuma area posted as Organic Farms because any residue of human traffic, hunt activity (shotgun shells, feathers, lost birds) or use of dogs can cause a farmer to lose an entire crop due to the new food safety regulation­s. Game and Fish cordially urges hunter to NOT HUNT OR EVEN ENTER in or near fields posted as Organic Farms.

HUNT LICENSE AND BIRD STAMP: For adults 18 and older, be sure to have your current hunt license along with a migratory bird stamp in your possession when you hunt. Youth ages 10-17 must have in their possession a valid youth combinatio­n license only (no bird stamp), available at Region IV office of Game and

Fish, 9140 E. 28th St, 928-342-0091; Sprague’s Sports Shop, 345 W. 32nd

St., 918-726-0022; Big 5 Sporting Goods, 505 W. Cataline Dr., 928-7262884; CAL Ranch, 529 W. 32nd St., 928-343-7700; Sportsman’s Warehouse, 1000 S. Castle Dome Ave.(in Palm Plaza), 928-615-3200, Walmart (central Yuma), 2900 S. Pacific Ave., 928-3440992; Walmart (West) 2501 S. Ave. B, 928-317-2776; or Walmart (Foothills) 8151 E. 32nd St, 928-344-5974. It’s also a good idea to pick up the Arizona Dove Regulation­s at your license location.

HUNTING ON TRIBAL LANDS: Tribal lands in the Yuma area require separate permits for hunting doves. Permits for hunting on the Cocopah Reservatio­n costs $65 and go on sale at the Cocopah Gift Shop located at the Cocopah Hotel and Casino and also at Sprague’s Sports. Call the Cocopah Tribal administra­tion at 928-627-2102, or The Gift Shop 15268 S. Avenue B in Somerton – 928-217-1068.

MIGRATORY GAME BIRDS: These birds may be taken only with a 10-gauge or smaller shotgun capable of holding no more than 3 shells (2 in the magazine and 1 in the chamber) unless it is plugged with a one-piece filler, incapable of removal without disassembl­ing the gun, so it’s total capacity does not exceed 3 shells. Shot sizes from 7 1/2, 8’s or 9’s will work just fine to bring down a dove. While dove are fast, they aren’t overly tough on the wing.

DAILY BAG AND POSSESSION LIMIT: The daily bag limit for mourning and white-wing doves is 15 total with no more than 10 being whitewinge­d doves. The possession limit is 45 total with no more than 30 being white-winged doves. The season for Eurasian Collared-dove, also residing in the Yuma area, is all year long with unlimited daily bag and possession limit. Their breasts are bigger than mourning or white-wing doves and are a good food source, as are the migratory birds.


Shoot within 1/4 mile (440 yards) of an occupied structure while hunting unless you have permission

Shoot from, across or into roads or railways

Leave shotgun shells or other litter on the ground (be sure to take a trash bag with you whenever you are hunting to dispose of all litter properly after your hunt)

If you choose to hunt at a farmer’s field, it’s most important to first get permission to be there – we want to keep good relations with our farmers to continue being able to go into their fields to hunt Hunt over waters all day – allow time for livestock to access water

Consume drugs or alcohol while hunting or handling firearms.


Leave one fully feathered wing attached to the bird for identifica­tion until you reach your permanent residence or where the wildlife will be consumed Keep individual limits of birds separate from others while in the field, in the cooler and in transit

Respect posting on private land and leave gates as found

Make a reasonable effort to retrieve all downed birds

Report violations to Operation Game Thief, 800-352-0700.

SNAKES: Rattlesnak­es are typically active during this early dove season, so avoid walking directly through thick ground cover or blindly grabbing a downed bird from the brush without carefully looking for snakes. Gun dogs should be snake broken. As Game and fish puts it, “Because snakes are a part of our environmen­t, leave them alone and they’ll do the same for you.”

FIELD DRESSING YOUR BIRDS: It’s a good idea to use vinyl gloves, and remember to leave the one wing attached for identifica­tion until you reach your final destinatio­n. If you field dress your birds at your hunt site, be sure to pick up ALL leavings, including feathers, so the area is clean for other hunters, especially at farmers’ fields. “Hunter/farmer relations are so very important to the future of our hunting opportunit­ies and we want to ensure that does not change, ever.” It only takes a few minutes to pick it up and pack it out for proper disposal. Game and Fish reminds us SHOTGUN SHELLS ARE LITTER! Farmers in the Yuma area play host to thousands of hunters every year. Be respectful of their property and pick up your shells. PLUS – littering while hunting is a revocable violation and a conviction can result in the loss of hunting privileges for up to five years. That’s where the trash bags we always take along come in very handy.

Have a great dove hunt, and leave it better than you find it!

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