Arizona Game and Fish has turned back the hands-of-time for dove hunters, with the launching of the new 2011-12 Arizona Dove and Band-tailed Pigeon regulations that are now available online at www.azgfd.gov/dove.
“For those of us with a little gray hair, the upcoming September 1st dove season will feel like a hunt from the olden’ days, now that we can once again hunt on much of the open, undeveloped public lands within municipalities, such as Phoenix,” said Rory Aikens, a public information officer with the Arizona Game and Fish Department for the past two decades.
Changes Remove Barriers
A number of changes have been made to the dove regulations that have removed many barriers to this Arizona hunting tradition, most notably:
• Hunting access re-opened to approximately a million acres of open uninhabited lands within municipalities,
• Daily bag limit increased for white-winged dove to 10 birds, and
• Hunting hours extended until sunset statewide.
The increased access is a result of two recently revised state laws. Those changes transferred the authority to regulate the use of firearms for the take of wildlife within municipal boundaries to the Arizona Game and Fish Commission.
Because of these changes, dove hunters will no longer have to drive long distances to participate in this Arizona hunting tradition.
However, Game and Fish has taken a prudent approach in its deployment of these shifted authorities and has closed hunting in many well-defined, densely populated metro areas. The flip side of this for dove hunters, especially those in the Phoenix metro area, is you will now be able to easily determine where you can and cannot hunt doves.
Know Before You Go
The closed to hunting boundaries are well defined in the notes section of the 2011-12 Arizona Dove and Band-tailed pigeon regulations. For the Phoenix metropolitan area, there is a map showing where you can and cannot hunt. The area is bounded by readily discernable roadways or waterways, such as the Gila River, and is available at www.azgfd.gov/dove.
At first glance, these regulations may seem more complicated than in years past. However, with this one-stop resource comes some complexities. Hunters need to thoroughly understand the notes section before they go hunting.
“A perfect example are the lands along the Carefree Highway corridor, between I-17 and US Route 60. These lands are primarily wide-open desert, but they fall within the city limits of Phoenix and Peoria. Before the law change, it was illegal to discharge a firearm within city limits, making hunting in these safe, open, unpopulated fringe areas also illegal — that is no longer the case,” said Aikens.
The Quarter-Mile Law
In addition to the closed area descriptions, hunters are reminded of the quarter-mile law, and while that is a minimum, responsible, ethical hunters will find an area where there is plenty of open space in all directions to hunt, in order to prevent any conflicts with other recreationists or homeowners, and to have an enjoyable hunting experience.
The early dove season opens on a Thursday this year, and runs from Sept. 1-15, statewide, with a 10-bird daily bag limit of mourning or white-winged dove. Printed copies of the dove regulations are available statewide at license dealers and Game and Fish offices.
Dove hunters are reminded they will need a general hunting license and an Arizona migratory bird stamp. Both are available online, at Game and Fish offices and licensed dealers.
Dove Populations Doing Well
Overall, dove populations are doing well in Arizona. Many farms are growing grains, including corn, which are excellent dove attractants. Working a corridor in these areas will bode well for many hunters.
In addition, monsoonal rains have been adequate throughout the state bringing much needed new growth to desert flora, another excellent dove attractant. Finding a lone water tank in these newly opened desert areas could also provide some fast wing shooting action.
In either case, success will come to those who scout their areas the weekend before they go hunting, as much can happen between now and that 3 a.m. wake up on opening day.
For more information about the recent law changes, the Phoenix metro no hunting map, a PDF copy of the dove regulations, or to buy your hunting license and dove stamp visit www.azgfd.gov/dove. Basic season information, boundary description, and other field reference facts are available for smartphone users at www.azgfd.gov/m.dove.
Looking To Try Dove Hunting?
The Arizona Game and Fish Department has teamed up with local sportsmen-conservation organization to offer “how-to dove hunt” events that are designed for kids and for first-time hunters. These events are a great way to get a “hands on” experience hunting doves.
Sept. 4-5: Juniors Dove Hunt , Robbins Butte Wildlife Area near Buckeye —Game and Fish actively manages the land, and due to the water corridor, it is rich with mesquite trees, wildlife food crops, and nesting habitat that attracts an abundance of dove (white-winged and mourning) and other wildlife. Pancake breakfast provided, hosted by the Chandler Rod and Gun Club; for details visit www.azgfd.gov/dove.
Sept. 10: First-time Hunters Dove Seminar and Hunt, East Valley (Phoenix/Mesa/Chandler) — This is for first-time hunters for kids and adults. A safety seminar will be held on Thursday, Sept. 9 at 7 p.m. and the hunt will be held on Saturday, Sept. 11 at 5 a.m. Some loaner shotguns and ammunition are available. Hosted by the Chandler Rod and Gun Club, contact David Carson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For a listing of other hunting events for youth and new hunters throughout the season, visit www.azgfd.gov/outdoorskills.
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