PHOENIX —-(Ammoland.com)- So, how’s dove hunting going to be this season?
It’s a rhetorical question in Arizona. That’s because, in any given year, an estimated 20 million to 30 million mourning doves – and another 2 million to 3 million of the bigger white-winged doves – are residing here come opening day.
“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.”
The 15-day “early” season gets underway 30 minutes before legal sunrise Thursday. The daily bag limit is 15 mourning and white-winged, 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 collared-dove.
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 white-winged 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.
“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.”
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.
A new attraction this year: The inaugural World Championship Dove Cook-off, which takes place from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday at the Yuma Civic and Convention Center. For more information, visit www.yumadovehunting.com.
For everything else “dove,” visit www.azgfd.gov/dove. Also, check out O’Dell’s video demonstrating two techniques for field-dressing doves.
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.