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Dove season outlook: Hunters won’t notice fewer birds   

Posted August 21, 2018

“You’re still going to find plenty of doves out there” — AZGFD biologist


PHOENIX — When you’re talking about 20 million mourning doves criss-crossing Arizona’s skies on opening day, versus the usual 30 million or so, what’s the difference, really?

Not much.

In fact, Arizona’s dove hunters won’t even notice the drop-off when the 2018 season begins Sept. 1.

“The first half of 2018 was an extremely dry year,” said Johnathan O’Dell, small game biologist for the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD). “Based on what we’re seeing in the field, mourning doves may not have pulled off as many nests as usual. Early estimates are that most doves pulled off three or four nests, instead of the usual five to six nests.

“So what does that mean? Well, you still have to consider the scale we’re talking about. A down year like this one means there will be about 20 million mourning doves on opening day, instead of 30 million.

“You’re still going to find plenty of doves out there.”

Once again, the greatest number of doves – and dove hunters — will be concentrated in the state’s agricultural areas, particularly those that produce small-grain crops like wheat, barley, oats and sorghum. For hunters who prefer a little more elbow room, now is the time to scout desert locations for water sources.

O’Dell said white-winged doves are still abundant in most areas and call counts remain high. All of that could change, however, depending on monsoon weather patterns over the next couple of weeks.  

“If we get any really big storms between now and the opener, many of them will start to migrate out of state,” O’Dell said. “If the monsoon slows down, we could be in for a very good opening day for white-winged doves.”

AZGFD reminds dove hunters to review the “2018-2019 Arizona Dove and Band-tailed Pigeon Regulations,” which are posted online at The regulations have been produced in a format that hunters will find particularly handy in the field. The color brochure is easier to read and features important hunting information, such as season dates, daily bag and possession limits, and legal requirements, at a glance. The printed version is available at all department offices and more than 200 license dealers statewide.

Here are a few things dove hunters need to know for the upcoming early season:

If you’re an adult who typically buys only a hunting license, why not not enjoy the “Best of Both Worlds” and purchase a combo hunt/fish license? For Arizona residents, it’s only $20 more than the price of an individual hunting or fishing license. For more information about why you should purchase a combo license, visit All licenses (except short-term) are valid for 365 days. 

For everything else “dove,” visit Also, check out O’Dell’s video that demonstrates two techniques for field-dressing doves at

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.