The first of the fall shotgun seasons opened two days ago with the mourning and white winged dove hunt. Arizona is one of the premier states for this popular bird with prolific numbers in the lower elevation desert regions.
The quick-flying and darting dove is a challenging target to catch up with in the early morning skies, especially for the hunter who has not had his shotgun out of the case since last quail season!
The Payson area at 5,000 feet in elevation has a limited number of areas where the mourning dove resides and has a huntable population of these quick-flying game birds. The key in locating these spots is water, food and roosting trees which can usually be found by finding some of the more obscure cattle tanks in the area.
Lower elevations offer best hunting
For some of the best hunting, it is probably necessary to make a short drive to the lower elevation deserts of Tonto Basin and Roosevelt Lake. By being there early, one can watch morning skies and often find a flyway zone that doves are using when leaving the roost trees and going to the daily food sources.
A pair of binoculars used on a highpoint in the landscape are a must and can save countless hours of wandering in the mesquite thickets trying to flush a bird.
The legal shooting hour begins one-half hour before sunrise and extends to sunset for all locations in the state which is a slight change from previous seasons where a few hunting units had only half-day hunts.
This is an overall improvement and easier for hunters to comply with the regulations which could allow for more hunters in the field. Now, after a full workday, it is possible to make a short drive and enjoy an evening dove hunt in Unit 22.
A dove hunt is a great opportunity to introduce a youngster to shotgun hunting for game birds in Arizona provided they have been properly taught gun safety. Arizona requires that anyone 14 years of age and older to have purchased a valid hunting license and a migratory bird stamp which are available at most sporting goods stores.
I have had some special hunts with my boys as they were growing up many years ago that are now fond memories.
The season continues for two more weeks, so take advantage of the perfect weather for a family dove hunt and, of course, a “dove and dumpling dinner” that could be a reality after a couple of trips in the field.
Make sure to pick up all shell casings and any other litter you might come upon, and leave the outdoors a cleaner place because you were there. If the area is private property where the doves are flying, ask permission first before entering and remember the discharge of firearms within a quarter-mile of any inhabited structure is illegal.
If you are a first-time dove hunter, I would recommend attending the Sept. 11 seminar and field shooting to be hosted by the Chandler Rod and Gun Club sponsored by the Arizona Game and Fish Department. All facets of the dove hunting experience will be covered with a hands-on shooting opportunity in prime dove habitat in the East Valley. Further information can be obtained on the Internet at chandlerrodandgunclub.com.
Good luck trying to get a limit of 10 doves per day and always keep in mind the top priority is safety and a fun experience in the Arizona outdoors, God’s creation.