By Jessica Manuell
Dove hunting is like fall kickoff except the pigskin isn’t flying, but rather little rockets that explode in a poof of feathers following a slew of shotgun blasts.
And there are more ways to eat dove than just wrapping them in bacon with a jalapeño and overcooking them on the grill. Some regions have dove cook off contests to up the level of fun and show off different methods of enjoying these small birds. Read on for a different kind of recipe.
Dove hunting in the Southwest is often the first active hunting a person gets to do after several months off. And what a better way to start things than through an activity that your whole family can participate in under minimal stress with little economic inputs.
It’s one of those hunts that if you live in an area where bird populations exist and are plentiful, you can limit and still make it to the office on time.
So what does it take to hunt dove?
Any shotgun will do including 10 gauge and smaller. And any reasonably priced 7 ½, 8 or 9 shot 2 3/4 inch shells will get the job done. Shotguns are to have a capacity of no more than three shells, one being chambered, as required by law.
Dove fall under the upland game, migratory bird category which means you need more than just your hunting license. This would include a migratory bird stamp. And, the federal government requires a HIP (Harvest Information Program) number each season with your stamp and license. In some cases, when you purchase your license and stamps, or apply for certain draws, the state collects the information needed for HIP.
The HIP numbers are administered by the U.S.F.W.S. with the purpose of collecting data along with the state you’re hunting in with regards to the total number of migratory game birds harvested. Estimates of these harvests give biologists information that will determine seasons, bag limits and population management strategies. This program is nationwide and covers all migratory birds and waterfowl.
Some basic rules for the Southwest states of Arizona, California, Utah, Nevada and New Mexico
Arizona and California do not require a HIP number to be in your possession while hunting where the other states do. Your license application will record the information for you.
New Mexico regulations require a HIP number but it is unclear in their regulations whether or not you need to acquire it on your own when purchasing a license.
Nevada and Utah require you to know your HIP number and have it in your possession along with your migratory bird stamp and your license.
Do you have to wear orange?
Orange is not required in any of these states except on military grounds and a refuge in New Mexico.
You don’t need to wear camo.
Dove have incredible eyesight and can see you moving, in camo or not from very far away. You could literally wear neon shirts and pants and still limit as long as you keep your movement to a minimum.
All bag limits are 15 per day, no more than 10 white wing , and no more than 45 dove (30 white wing) in possession at a time. Arizona has a late season dove hunt for mourning dove only, no white wing.
Eurasian Ringneck has no limit as long as a wing is left on the bird and they are identifiable they will not count towards your daily bag limit. Eurasian Ringneck dove are an invasive species and you can hunt them year round.
As with all migratory birds, a wing should remain attached until you are at your residence or the place where you will consume your harvest.
Hunter Education Certificates
With regards to hunter education, youth 15 and over and adults in Arizona are not required to have completed a course though it is recommended.
California requires first-time hunters or hunters who do not have a license issued within the last two years from another state or province to possess a hunter education certification to hunt in California.
Nevada requires anyone born after 1960 to possess a hunter education certificate.
New Mexico requires anyone under the age of 18 to possess a hunter education certificate and some military land requires all hunters to have a certificate.
Utah requires anyone born after December 31, 1965 to possess a hunter education certificate on file with the division of wildlife in order to purchase a license.
For more information regarding hunter education requirements as well as license, orange and firearm information, refer to the International Hunter Education Association web page at www.ihea-usa.org/ under the hunting and shooting tab.
So if dove are so plentiful, why do people miss?
Dove are fast. 55 miles per hour fast, and they are exceptional aerial acrobats. They see extremely well and they are small, like 4 ounce 12 inches long or less small.
People think they can hit them a lot farther away than in reality so a lot of shells get expended on a dove hunt.
It is true that many people get shot accidentally with bird shot during dove season. You can still feel the affects of bird shot at 100 yards. But you’re not going to fatally hit a dove at that distance.
Other reasons people miss is because they don’t follow through on their shots, they don’t lead birds but rather shoot behind them and they try and blast an entire flock instead of targeting one bird at a time when they are flying by or towards them.
The epicenter of dove hunting
The premier dove hunting destination is none other than Yuma, Arizona. The general season runs from ½ hour before sunrise September 1st and through sunset September 15. For 2020, the late season starts ½ hour before sunrise November 20th and runs through January 3, 2021 for mourning dove only.
People come from all over to enjoy opening day. Early fall is also the beginning of fresh produce season in Yuma and the roads are already full of farm managers, workers, inspectors, tractors, buses and pickups so when September 1 comes, it’s like a traffic jam on every canal and field row that is open to the general public. If you needed to enter private land for any reason, do your research and get permission first.
It is imperative to adhere to any and all signs that restrict entry. Food safety is a global concern and you must be mindful of where you step, inevitably litter, and blast wads and shot. Hazing of birds is allowed in agriculture fields using bird shot up to a certain point of crop maturity but most don’t even chance it. Farms can have an entire field’s harvest rejected if one piece of bird shot or dead bird or litter is found costing the farmer millions.
Clean up after yourselves. Don’t breast your birds on the side of the road or next to that haystack you thought you’d hide behind. And pick up all your spent shells and wads.
There are plenty of birds on public land away from agriculture fields and private property to still limit at a decent hour of the morning or evening.
In several seasons of dove hunting in Yuma, I can attest that some people are so trigger happy that they forget the basics of zone of fire, and the basics of not keeping their fingers off the trigger and forgetting to be sure of their target and beyond. I’ve been hit with shot in the brush and I’ve been hit with shot driving down the road while a father shot over the highway with their children watching. That gentleman received an earful.
The enjoyable side of hunting Yuma is the Big Breast Contest and Dove Cook-off sponsored by The Arizona Chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers. Those interested in entering the contest should sign up no later than early August. The first place prize package is valued at around $1200.00 of Traeger Products. The event is held at a local business to support local retailers in the area.
The Arizona Game and Fish regional office also hosts a post season clean-up day with breakfast and raffle prizes included. For more information regarding the dove cook-off, post season clean up and other events, visit www.yumadovehunting.com.
So while you’re waiting for hunting season to arrive, take some time to practice with the shotgun at the trap range and make a plan to spend a weekend dove hunting in the Southwest.