Arizona wing shooters can be thankful a week before the turkey holiday, with the second edition of dove season opening on Friday, Nov. 19.
The season runs from Nov. 19, 2010 through just after the New Year, closing Jan. 2, 2011. The season offers full-day hunting and the daily bag limit is 10 mourning dove.
The best times to hunt are right before sunrise and about 1-2 hours before sunset, making this hunt convenient and accommodating for busy schedules.
Late season dove brings another great addition to a mixed-bag harvest. Quail and rabbit seasons are already open and these desert dwellers occur in the same areas as dove. Water tanks, washes and scrub desert offer a small game hunting bonanza. Each species is excellent table fare alone, but combined you get a fantastic grilled fiesta or hearty gumbo for a cold day.
Where to hunt?
Your best bets are state trust lands and BLM lands for open hunting. Desert water holes can often offer spectacular evening shooting during the late season, and a great way to combine dove and quail on a hunt. A few scouting trips can help locate great hunting spots.
Roosting sites often make for good shooting. Doves will typically pick densely vegetated areas for roosts. Mesquite bosques, tamarisk (salt cedar) thickets, and citrus groves are typical roosting sites. Doves establish flight patterns and follow them.
Dove hunting tips:
• Pre-scout: Take a drive out to the areas you are considering to hunt around the same time you plan on hunting them. Check water holes for water, activity and roosting birds.
• Be on time: Evening flights do not last long. Birds get up from where they are feeding and head to roosting cover just before sunset. You should be in the field ready for birds no later than 4 p.m. Sunset during the winter is right around 5:15 p.m.
• Take cover: Keep your silhouette broken up with a bush, tree or other natural object to keep hunter-wary doves from climbing.
• Pick your shots: Some evening flights can have waves of 15, 20, 30 or more doves at once. These birds are typically climbing and moving fast. Pick your shot one bird at a time to put more birds in the bag.
• Hit and move: When you hit a bird, hold off on shooting, and move to the fall of the last bird for the retrieve.
• Clean up: Also, pick up all spent shot shells and boxes.
A general hunting license (resident class G $32.25) and a migratory bird stamp ($4.50) are required for all hunters 16 and older. Young hunters ages 14 and 15 do not need a migratory bird stamp, but do need a general hunting license. Youth hunters 13 and under can hunt without a license when accompanied by a licensed adult 18 or older.
Any shotgun in any gauge that you shoot well is the best choice. Choice of shot size ranges from No. 8 for close-flying birds and up to No. 6 for those high-flying birds. Other than some water, hat and sunglasses are all that is needed to get out and enjoy dove hunting.
Dove: Nov. 19, 2010 - Jan. 2, 2011
Quail (desert): Oct. 1, 2010 - Feb. 6, 2011
Mearns’ quail: Nov. 26, 2010 - Feb. 6, 2011
Squirrel: Oct. 1 - Dec. 31, 2010
Rabbits (including jackrabbits): July 1, 2010 - June 30, 2011
Waterfowl: mountain zone closes Jan. 16, desert zone closes Jan. 30, 2011
For the 2010-11 dove hunting regulations, other small game regulations, hunting tips, the small game outlook and more, visit www.azgfd.gov/hunting under the ‘small game hunting’ section.