Dove Hunting — Arizona-style!
Sept. 1 means one thing: It’s dove-hunting season
2019-20 Arizona dove season outlook
What a difference a year makes. An unusually wet winter in 2018 gave doves a much-needed boost in 2019. In fact, most mourning doves have successfully nested five to six times through the peak hatching periods.
Doves already are congregating into larger groups. The morning and evening flights at traditional roost sites have been plentiful. If monsoon storms continue to be few and far between, hunters should find birds concentrated at watering and feeding sites on opening day. Remember, scouting in the mornings and evenings a week in advance of the opener is huge in pinpointing some good hunting spots.
As for white-winged doves, their numbers continue to remain impressive in most areas. So far, there hasn’t been enough monsoon storm activity to prompt the birds to begin their migration south to Mexico. If hunters keep their fingers crossed that the weather remains fairly stable in areas where white-winged doves are plentiful, it could be another great opening day in Arizona.
The 2019-20 Arizona dove season outlook was provided by Johnathan O’Dell, small game biologist for the Arizona Game and Fish Department.
Here’s what you need to know:
-Hunters age 18 and older need a valid Arizona Hunting License (or Hunt/ Fish Combination License) and Migratory Bird Stamp
-Hunters age 10-17 only need the Youth Hunt/ Fish Combination License
-Persons under the age of 10 can hunt dove without a license if accompanied by a licensed adult age 18 or older. (No more than two unlicensed children may accompany any license holder).
-The bag limit is 15 doves a day (mourning and white-winged doves combined)
-No more than 10 per day can be white-winged doves
-There is a 45-bird possession limit after opening day
-Eurasian collared doves have no bag limit or possession limit
A hunting license AND an Arizona Migratory Bird Stamp are required for all dove hunters ages 10 years and older.
- The new Youth Combination Hunt and Fish License, ages 10-17, includes the Arizona Migratory Bird Stamp
- Kids under age 10 do not need a hunting license when accompanied by a licensed adult (two kids per adult)
Are you up for a “Challenge?”
Gear and Equipment
Any style shotgun in any gauge that you shoot well is perfect for dove hunting.
Shot sizes from No. 7 ½, 8s or 9s will work just fine bringing down a dove, while they are fast, they are not overly tough on the wing.
Camouflage clothing is not as necessary as much as standing still and breaking up your silhouette.
Hunter orange is not mandatory, but a little is a great way to help others see you in the field in those pre-dawn hours.
Hunters should have ear and eye protection, water, hat, sunscreen, bug spray, bags and cooler to store their harvest.
Open Hunting Areas
The latest map is below and the legal description of the boundaries are listed in the current dove regulations.
Recent law changes increased dove hunting access compared to recent years. Approximately 1 million acres of open, undeveloped, uninhabited desert areas on the periphery of city limits are now open to dove hunting. The Game and Fish Commission has taken a conservative, thoughtful approach in its deployment of these shifted or modified authorities.
The Game and Fish Department has closed hunting in a well-defined, densely populated, core area within Metro-Phoenix. See “Restrictions in Metro Areas” section below.
Even with these no hunting areas, the changes still maximizes hunting opportunity, while at the same time minimizing potential conflicts with urban communities.
The public should not be concerned about these new changes having an effect on safety in their communities. It is important to note that even before these changes, there are three existing key state laws that make it illegal to hunt near homes, roadways, or trespass on private property, including:
A.R.S. § 17-309 (a)(4) It is unlawful for a person to: “Discharge a firearm while taking wildlife within one-fourth mile of an occupied farmhouse or other residence, cabin, lodge or building without permission of the owner or resident.”
A.R.S. § 17-301(b): “No person may knowingly discharge any firearm or shoot any other device upon, from, across or into a road or railway.”
A.R.S. § 17-304 provides provisions for private landowners ensuring: A person may not trespass on private property for taking wildlife if that property is posted ‘no hunting’ or if a person is asked to leave by the owner.
If anyone observes any these laws being violated, they should contact the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s Operation Game Thief hotline at 800 352-0700, or the local law enforcement agency immediately.
Yuma Dove Hunting
Yuma is gearing up for another great dove season. There are a number of grain fields keeping doves close by. As long as Yuma doesn’t get beat up too bad by summer monsoon rains before the opening day, white-winged doves will remain plentiful before they migrate south.
The www.yumadovehunting.com website has local information on the Yuma dove hunting hot spots.
A good place to start your scouting is by using Google Earth for locating water holes, dense roosting sites, and travel corridors. The site gives you GPS coordinates that you can load as waypoints on your GPS device to assist your scouting.
Another great website for scouting is Rain Log, www.rainlog.org. 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. 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.
When you do your scouting, preferably the week before the hunt, be sure to bring a pair of binoculars to assist in locating flights of birds, a good map (with landownership), and your GPS with your pre-scouting waypoint locations. If you find a good flight pattern get out of the vehicle and find out what the birds are eating, drinking, or where they are roosting. Knowing what activity they are doing, and the time of day, will be valuable when you plan your hunt.
Doves are incredibly fast – up to 55 mph. Doves are extremely agile – and can change direction almost instantly. Doves are relatively small – 4 ounces, 12 inches long. This results in some challenging wing shooting.
Common reasons for missing doves:
- taking shots at birds too far away or too high
- shooting behind the bird
- not picking one bird from a group (flock shooting)
- waiting too long to take the shot
Safety and Responsibility
Hunting in Arizona statistically is much safer activity than what some might perceive. More than 30,000 people participate each year – typically during opening weekend. Basic safety tips that in nearly all cases – will prevent an accident:
- Maintain a zone of fire – a 45 degree field of view “between 10 and 2 o’clock” in front of the hunter
- Shoot for the sky – all shots should be above the tree line, birds should have clear sky above and below for a safe shot around other hunters and dogs
- Know your range – don’t hunt too close to others; at 100 yards (football field) birdshot pellets can still have an impact
- T.A.B. +1 – Treat every firearm like it’s loaded; Always keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction; Be sure of your target and beyond; +1 keep your finger off the trigger until you are certain of your shot and ready to shoot
- Be sure to unload you firearm before you return to your vehicle and stow it safely. Never lean a loaded gun on the side of a vehicle, on the tailgate, or in the truck
Rattlesnakes are typically active during the early dove season. Dove hunters should avoid walking directly through thick cover, or blindly grabbing a downed bird from the brush without carefully looking for snakes. Gun dogs should be snake trained. Snakes are also a part of our environment. Leave them alone, and they will do the same to you. There are 13 rattlesnake species in Arizona.
There is nothing like the feeling of shooting a dove at first light on a humid Arizona morning, but sometimes, the best part of the hunt is sharing your harvest with close friends and family members. Here is a tried and true recipe, guaranteed to get you excited about that 3 a.m. wake-up.
Using filleted dove meat marinated in Italian dressing, onions, green peppers, red peppers, bacon, and corn. Then build your kabob to your tastes. Grill on the top rack (or indirectly) for 15 minutes to bring all the ingredients to temperature, then cook on the bottom rack over hot fire, quickly, for about 5 minutes. Dove meat should be rare to medium-rare for best taste. Serve with cheese-garlic toast and wild rice. Feed 6-10.
- 10 dove breasts – filleted off breast bone
- 2 bell peppers
- 2 red peppers
- 1 large red onion
- 4 ears of corn
- 1 pound bacon
- 2 cups Italian dressing
Remove dove breast from bone and quarter. Marinate in Italian dressing for 1-2 hours. Chunk cut peppers and onions. Slice corn into one-inch wide wheels. Slice bacon into 3-4 inch strips. On a skewer, alternate vegetables and dove, using bacon on both sides of meat and an onion slice by the bacon.
But the fun is, you can build them how you like. Slow cook over indirect heat for 15 minutes, then cook on hot grill, basting with Italian dressing often. Dove should be cooked rare to medium-rare.
About Hunting and Conservation
Did you know, mourning doves are the most numerous, widespread game bird in North America? They are prolific breeders with an average life span of 1-2 years. Dove hunting seasons are regulated and maintain doves as a sustainable wildlife resource. Dove hunters are a valuable conservation tool. There is an excise tax on firearms and ammunition that is contributed to the federal Pitman-Robertson Fund, which in turn is apportioned to state wildlife agencies for the management of wildlife, which benefits all citizens.
Additionally, hunters provide hundreds of thousands of dollars into the local economy, by purchasing ammunition, gas, food and lodging while engaging in this American tradition.