Late dove season opens this Friday, Nov. 22 and runs through Sunday, Jan. 5, 2014. As with the early season, statewide, legal shooting hours are all day, beginning one-half hour before sunrise and continuing until sunset.
“This is my favorite time to get out,” says Johnathan O’Dell, the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s small game specialist and an avid bird hunter. “The late season is not only long, but the birds are big and the weather generally is fantastic.”
The late season is for mourning dove only. The bag limit is 10 birds per day, and the new possession limit is 30 birds, which allows hunters to accumulate more birds in the freezer.
Most white-winged doves left Arizona months ago, but a few linger through the winter, so hunters should take care to avoid shooting one of these birds during the late season.
Eurasian collared-dove are in season all year, and there are no bag and possession limits. Eurasian collared-doves tend to stay closer to urbanized areas, but it is not unusual to find them frequenting the same field as mourning doves.
Spectacular sunsets, pleasant weather and full-grown birds are a hallmark of late season dove hunting. Unlike September hunts, the late dove season brings cool, dry, delightful weather (this weekend’s weather forecast notwithstanding) and excellent opportunities for a mixed bag. Quail, duck and rabbit seasons are also open, and they are often found in the same areas as dove. Dove, quail, duck and rabbit are all excellent table fare, and together can be the perfect partners for the grill or in a hearty cool-weather soup.
For new and novice hunters of all ages, consider signing up for the Picket Post Small Game Hunting Camp on Dec. 7 and 8. Instruction and mentoring on small game hunting (dove, quail, rabbits and coyotes) and shooting techniques is included. Food and firearms are also provided. The camp is hosted by Arizona Game and Fish Department-Region 6 in Mesa, Youth Outdoors Unlimited, Red Bear Outfitters and Arizona Outdoor Sports. Register at www.youthoutdoorsunlimited.com.
Tips to make the most of your late dove season hunt:
- Pre-scout. Drive around areas you’re considering for your hunt in the morning and late afternoon, the same time of day you plan to hunt there. Look for water holes, drainages and places that are likely to have water. Pay special attention to wildlife activity and roosting birds in the area. Visit www.azgfd.gov/dove to check out areas open to hunting and links for resources to find water holes and drainages.
- Be on time. If you plan to hunt later in the day, be in the field ready for birds no later than 4 p.m. (earlier is better). Sunset during the winter is around 5:15 p.m. Evening flights do not last long, and being a few minutes late can mean missing the best of what is often just a 30-45 minute shoot. Birds stop feeding and head to roosting cover just before sunset around 5 p.m. during this time of year.
- Take cover. Break up your silhouette with a bush, tree, or other natural object to discourage doves from flying to out-of-range altitudes or veering away from your shooting position.
- Pick your shots. Some evening flights can have waves of 15, 20, 30 or more doves at once. They can move fast. Pick your shot one bird at a time, and you’ll end up with more birds in the bag.
- Hit and move. When you hit a bird, hold off on shooting, carefully mark the bird, and move to it for the retrieve. Then, find cover or crouch down, and repeat. Darkness comes quickly and you’ll want to get every bird in the bag while it is still legal to shoot.
New rules about where to hunt.
- In and around Phoenix, some areas of Unit 25M are now closed to hunting. For online information including an area map, visit www.azgfd.gov/dove for the 2013-2014 dove regulations and read note 17.
Near Tucson in Avra Valley, new areas are now open in units 36C and 37A. Read note 21 on page 12 of the Amended Dove Regulations, available only online at www.azgfd.gov/dove. Note: This information is not in the print version of the 2013-2014 dove regulations.
Logo courtesy Arizona Game and Fish Department