|Arizona Game and Fish Department biologists say dove reproduction is down but the outlook is still decent for the increasingly popular late dove season starting November 21.
Weed crops, which were produced by summer and winter rains, were poor this year in many areas of the state, which means doves could be concentrated in agricultural areas. Despite poor general dove reproduction of doves, hunters should not notice much difference from other years if they are hunting in agricultural areas, says Randy Babb, a department biologist.
Babb emphasizes that hunters need to spend time scouting. A few reconnaissance trips can pay off in great hunting. Check agricultural areas for cut grain fields or fields that may be cut in the near future and feed lots. If you plan to hunt on private property, please ask permission first.
Roosting sites can provide good dove action. Doves typically pick densely vegetated areas for roosts. Mesquite bosquets, tamarisk (salt cedar) thickets, and citrus groves are typical roosting sites.
Keep in mind that doves establish flight patterns and follow them. Even a field with lots of birds using it will have a few spots that offer the best shooting. Watch tree lines, washes, canals, field corners, or other structural features that birds may follow, Babb suggests.
Late-season doves frequently shift their flight patterns and feeding areas, Babb says, so the more spots you have lined up, the better your chances are for consistent good hunting. Desert water holes can often offer spectacular evening shooting. These water holes provide a great way to combine dove and quail on a hunt. Such outings are excellent for introducing youth to hunting.
Avoid shooting near thickly vegetated areas such as alfalfa or cotton fields to minimize the number of lost birds. If you do hunt some place with thick vegetation, try to chose your shots so birds fall into open areas. Mark downed birds and walk directly to them to minimize the chance of losing them. If the hunter stands still or sits or stands next to some sort of cover (a ditch, shrub, tree, telephone pole) birds will be less likely to shy away from them. Wearing drab clothing will also make the hunter less conspicuous, Babb says.
Be sure to ask landowners before hunting on private land and to pick up all spent shells and shell boxes. It is also a good idea to wait to clean your birds until you get home.
Copyright © 2003 J & D Outdoor Communications. All rights reserved.