PHOENIX — Gather up your shotgun, birdshot, retriever, and ice chest because Arizona’s dove season opens on Tuesday, Sept. 1. Photo Credit AZGFD
“With the continued drying conditions throughout the state this summer, dove hunters will find birds concentrated around traditional agricultural areas due to the dependable food sources,” said Randy Babb, Arizona Game and Fish Department biologist and avid upland hunter. “This will provide some very good hunting opportunities for those that spend time scouting.”
Given that, hunters are encouraged to wear some hunter orange when taking to the field. Hunting doves doesn’t require full camouflage, and if you hold still before taking your shot, the dove won’t even notice, but other hunters will see you -- even in pre-dawn light.
Babb added, “There are some desert areas that do have reliable water sources and good drainage that provide roosting cover, food, water and resting areas for doves that can be productive. Hunting a distant stock tank in the upper desert can provide an exciting and private hunting experience.”
The weather forecast for the opener is for dry and hot conditions. Expect morning temperatures to be in the 80s and ramp up 100 before you know it. Dove meat is fantastic when gathered and prepared properly. With high temperatures, be sure to get your harvest on ice quickly, or your taste buds will suffer severely.
The season runs from Sept. 1-15, with shooting hours starting one-half hour before sunrise. The sunrise time for central Arizona on Sept. 1 is 6:03 a.m. Adjust accordingly depending on if you are in the west or east ends of the state, up to nine minutes in some cases. Legal shooting hour ends at noon in the South Zone. However, all-day shooting hours are open to juniors statewide and all hunters in the North Zone (see regulations for details).
Bag limits are the same as previous years, with a 10-bird total of mourning and white-winged dove, of which only six may be white-winged doves. There is no limit on collared doves. Be sure to leave one feathered wing on each bird until you reach your final destination.
Before heading to the field, be sure to pick up plenty of shotgun shells. The unspoken average of shots per bird harvested is five to one – so make it three boxes of shells. Shot size No. 8 or 7 ½ bird shot will do.
A general hunting license is required for hunters ages 14 and up. The Arizona Migratory Bird Stamp is required for those 16 and older. However, for new and younger hunters there are two options. Young hunters under 14 may hunt without a license (2 maximum), when accompanied by a licensed adult – so take a youngster hunting. An apprentice license is available at no charge and valid for two days, allowing new hunters the chance to “try before you buy.” The license is valid for two consecutive days but must be issued to a licensed mentor. To hunt doves with the apprentice license a migratory bird stamp is required. To learn more about the new apprentice license, visit www.azgfd.gov and select the "license" icon.
Ready? So where to go?
Arizona offers a plethora of public lands open to licensed hunters. The places to avoid are city limits (most have ordinances against discharging a firearm), and private property without written permission.
There are many agricultural areas in the central corridor of the state that border BLM or state trust land that will offer hunting opportunities.
Babb suggests, “Using Google Earth or the Delorme Gazetteer are great resources for identifying land ownership, topography (water holes, drainages, etc.) and other potential honey holes. Another great cross reference is to go online to http://rainlog.org (or similar site) and check out rainfall numbers to see up-to-date information for where the best crop and water sources may be.”
Lastly, to simplify learning how to dove hunt, the Arizona Game and Fish Department is hosting and teaming up with sportsmen’s groups to provide a number of designated hunts – some offering mentoring and equipment to help you get started. Schedule events are
Sept. 1-3: Habitat fundraiser dove hunt (fee required), Texas Hill Farms, Roll (east of Yuma). To register, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sept. 5-6: Juniors-only dove hunt, Robbins Butte Wildlife Area, near Buckeye (pancake and sausage breakfast provided by Chandler Rod and Gun Club). First-come, first-served, for details and directions, visit www.chandlerrodandgunclub.com.
Sept. 5: Juniors-only dove hunt, Texas Hill Farms, Roll (east of Yuma). To register, contact email@example.com.
Sept. 11-12: New hunters dove hunting seminar and hunt by AGFD and Chandler Rod and Gun Club. Seminar (required) on Sept. 11 at the AGFD Mesa Regional office, hunt on Sept. 12 in Queen Creek at Zimmerman Dairy. For additional information, contact David Carson (480) 987-4825 or Randy Babb (480) 324-3546.
Be sure to hunt in open areas, observe the ¼ mile rule when near a building (when in doubt, move further away), and always remove your trash from your hunting area (this includes your spent shotgun shells).
Of course, no matter where you go, remember to be safe. An easy lesson is the basic hunter’s safety rule T.A.B. +1
T=Treat every gun as if it were loaded;
A=Always keep your muzzle pointed in a safe direction;
B=Be sure of your target and beyond;
+1=Keep your finger outside the trigger guard until ready to shoot.
To learn more about the hunting opportunities offered by the Arizona Game and Fish Department, visit www.azgfd.gov/hunting.
The Arizona Game and Fish Department prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, age, or disability in its programs and activities. If anyone believes that they have been discriminated against in any of the AGFD’s programs or activities, including employment practices, they may file a complaint with the Deputy Director, 5000 W. Carefree Highway, Phoenix, AZ 85086-5000, (602) 942-3000, or with the Fish and Wildlife Service, 4040 N. Fairfax Dr. Ste. 130, Arlington, VA 22203. Persons with a disability may request a reasonable accommodation or this document in an alternative format by contacting the Deputy Director as listed above.
Dinghy Digest ®